Are you looking for menu ideas for Christmas Eve?
Seafood is the traditional choice of many, especially those who celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Back in the Day
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American custom rooted in Catholicism that dates to a time when abstaining from meat on prescribed weekdays and the eves of holy days was a routine practice.
Many Southern Italian families bought affordable products like cod – particularly baccalà, or dried and salted cod – for days such as these.
“La Vigilia di Natale,” or Christmas Eve, is considered to be the holiest night of the year in the Christian tradition. In many homes of Italian ethnicity, family members attend midnight mass together, and exchange gifts upon their return home.
Over time, church rules relaxed, and people left the old country.
Soon, prosperity and nostalgia joined hands and modern-day Americans elevated the lowly fast meal to a feast. Both at home and in restaurants, an Italian-American Christmas Eve became synonymous with a seven-course fish dinner fit for a king.
Well, no one knows for sure, but that’s as good an explanation as any.
The number seven remains a mystery. Some say it represents the number of days it took to create the world, and others believe it refers to the seven Catholic sacraments. Regardless, most would agree that it’s a delicious way to celebrate!
A Festive Seafood Menu
During the holidays, grocers stock an array of traditional “frutti di mare,” or seafood.
You may find fresh-caught delights like anchovies, calamari (squid), carp, clams, cod, crab, eel, herring, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, scungilli (sea snails), and shrimp. There’s no better time of year to cook a fish dinner.
This Christmas Eve, dazzle your guests with a seven-course celebration! Below is a menu featuring some of Foodal’s best seafood, side dish, and dessert recipes.
Plan a sit-down dinner, or serve buffet style for a wonderful event to remember.
Finger foods are fun, especially in a buffet setting. Tangy Coconut Popcorn Prawns with Dipping Sauce are sure to please. Ease into your evening with a light and refreshing plate like Crab and Mango Stuffed Avocado Halves. Jalapeño peppers give them a tasty kick.
Tempt your guests’ palates with a cool Lobster Salad with avocado, tomato, and cucumber. Pesto and a chilled dill dressing that you can prepare ahead of time make this a winning dish.
Zuppa di Pesce, or fish soup, is a traditional Italian dish that’s a cross between a chowder and a stew, and it is often served as a meal unto itself.
You may also serve a tomato-rich Manhattan, or creamy New England clam chowder for a warm and comforting soup course, with a flavorful homemade fish stock for the base.
Pasta is sure to make at least one appearance on the feast table.
Why not surprise your guests with homemade pasta? It’s made with just three simple ingredients: flour, eggs, and salt.
Then whip up some Buttery Baked Shrimp Scampi to serve on top.
As for wine, the only thing that goes better with pasta and shellfish than a Sauvignon Blanc is a Pinot Noir.
Have you ever wanted to make your own wine? Start now and perfect your craft for next year’s holiday season!
For your main event, feature seafood that you really like and that you cook well.
Salmon is my favorite go-to fillet because it’s full of omega-3s and makes a beautiful presentation every time. Serve Chipotle Lime Salmon to add some excitement to your menu.
Or, fire up the grill and impart an elegant and stylish ambiance with succulent Grilled Lobster Tails with Herbed Butter and Baby Potatoes.
Lobster is a delicacy your guests will applaud, and that you will find easy to prepare (believe it or not)!
And finally, consider preparing a Wild Black Cod Sautéed Fillet Served with Potatoes and Broccoli for an upscale presentation of a humble classic.
Kale is a popular vegetable that pairs well with seafood.
Fiesta Kale Salad is a stick-to-your ribs dish that combines kale with black beans and sweet potatoes, for a robust bite. Apple cider vinegar subtly counteracts the kale’s bitterness, and cilantro takes center stage for a multi-layered flavor experience.
Another excellent side dish is a Broccoli, Cherry Tomato, Italian Kale and Onion Sauté that will make the garlic lovers at your table very happy.
Beans are also a complementary choice, especially Seasoned Green Beans with Tomatoes. It’s thyme that gives these beans their zing.
Roasted Root Vegetables. A variety of winter vegetables may be combined and roasted, including sweet potato, beets, potatoes, rutabaga, cauliflower, and carrots. A caramelized glaze enhances the vegetables’ natural sweetness.
Herb Roasted New Potatoes: tarragon, garlic, and chives blend well to create a savory side that pairs with fillets.
Cilantro makes an appearance again in Cilantro Lime Rice, a tangy side infused with citrus that complements fillet and shell varieties.
Not too sweet, a Lemon and Lime Sponge Roll is just right after a seafood dinner. Its citrus essence, light texture, and creamy filling are a contemporary twist on the classic Italian sponge.
Wow guests with a delectable Baumkuchen. Baked one layer at a time, with jam in between, this German confection is worth every minute of the time it takes to prepare.
Holiday cookies make an excellent dessert. Offer a tempting variety, like Italian Biscotti Cookies with Dried Cherries, Raisins, and Pistachio Nuts, or Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti Cookies. These are great with a cup of coffee by the fire after a filling meal.
Good Health and Happy Holidays
Eating seafood is a healthy choice. It’s low in fat, a great source of protein, and a source of essential fatty acids.
Enjoy dining on seafood with friends and family this holiday season. Don’t be afraid to try new and interesting delicacies from the sea.
Do you have a large family?
Start a yearly Feast of the Seven Fishes tradition and take turns hosting it. Get the kids to help, and have guests bring dishes to share.
Use disposable plates, cups, and flatware (or set a fancy table but be sure to keep on top of those holiday dishes) and serve up a relaxing and nourishing Christmas Eve meal to remember.
For ideas for a New Year’s delectable food spread, make sure to check out our other article.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Foodal!
We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Baumkuchen, Vanilla Crescent Cookie, and White Chocolate Coconut Delights photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not in the garden, she’s in the kitchen preparing imaginative gluten- and dairy-free meals. With a background in business, writing, editing, and photography, Nan writes humorous and informative articles on gardening, food, parenting, and real estate topics. Having celiac disease has only served to inspire her to continue to explore creative ways to provide her family with nutritious locally-sourced food.