Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feast of Seven Fishes

Just about every year since we have been married we have hosted a Feast of 7 Fishes Christmas Eve meal. I had never of it until I read about it on thenest, but instantly fell in love with the idea. It combines my love of obscure Catholic traditions with Mr. W's love of cooking food that is kind of a dare.
Each year I have suggested lobster bisque, but Mr. W is too squeemish to kill them. He has always suggested that we wait until his brother in law, Mr. L, comes for Christmas. Mr. L is a big time foodie and up for a food challenge. Since The L's and the H-Gs were coming to celebrate our Last Christmas in the bungalow, this was our year to finally attempt lobster. Mr. L is really into the loco-vore movement right now, so he was a bit aprehensive about importing lobster from the East Coast, but we were able to talk him into it by being Pacific heavy with the other courses.
What actually happened was that the Fo7F became a man-off with the men folk outdoing themselves. To begin with, they couldn't narrow it down to just 7 fish, and even numbers are unlucky so we had our first Feast of 9 Fishes. They ordered calamari and mussels from Zupan's, but everything else they bought at Newman's Fish Market. They decided upon live lobster and live crab. Mr. L handled the slaughter. Mrs. L provided the moral support and acted as photographer.
(I frankly don't know where Mr. W was in all of this. I had taken the baby and the H-Gs to The Grilled Cheese Grill for lunch. It was my intention to take My Little Helper too to keep him out from being underfoot, but he had no interest in grilled cheese with live crustaceans in the house.) But here is the team working together.I meanwhile set the table for 10 using the green linen table cloth and mine and my mom's Christmas china. As it would happen, our dining room light fixture broke right after Baby Boy's birthday party so we had a very candle lit meal.I pulled out just about every candle I could, it was actually very pretty.The first course they served was oysters on the half shell. I don't like oysters and I eventually manage to choke down one of them just to be social. All my drama working up the nerve to swallow it and I forgot to take a photo. They are pretty unattractive though, so I don't think we are missing much.
Next up was the calamari. I had been actually been looking forward to this for several days.The third course was the lobster bisque. This was so good, seriously everything I had been looking forward too! I wish I could have had another serving. I hope it was obvious to Mr. L and Mr. W how much I appreciate all the work they had put into the meal for just this soup. I kept oohing and aahing over it!
The next dish was steamed mussels with a shallot and wine broth. I always pass on the mussels, but this year I was ambitious and finally tried one. They look totally unappealing to me, like a female body part, and I can't say that I am a fan. The broth smells delightful though because there is so much butter in it. It seems I failed to take a photo of the mussel course too.
We reached the mid point of our meal by now and we were back to the deep fryer. This recipe for crab cakes came from a date night cooking class at Sur La Tabla. It is served with an aioli. I should mention that the gentlemen had put a lot of thought into selecting the perfect wine for each course. My one contribution was '7 Pastors Pinot'. This wine is a fundraiser at our church, celebrating our centennial and the 7 priests we've had during our 100 year existence. The funds are go towards the restoration of the old church.The following course was new to us this year. Mr. L really wanted to include octopus so he suggested octopus salad with arugula, radicchio, cannellini beans, carrot, onion, celery and parsely. I was apprehensive about eating the octopus; the idea of feeling the suction cups with me tongue is off putting. But the taste and texture wasn't too bad. It felt very meaty to me and not grainy or slimy like I was afraid. The colors looked very festive though. I would eat this again.Another highlight was the lobster poached in butter course. There wasn't a lot of it (this was a dinner plate used as the serving plate), but that which we had was heavenly!Nearing the end of the meal we move into entree type dishes with the traditional baccala or salt cod. Mr. W and I are really acquiring a taste for this.We pair the baccala with broccoli rabe.We usually finish with salmon tagliatelli, but this year salmon lost out to scallops. The fresh pasta is also from Newman's. I signed up to be a Eucharistic minister at the 4 o'clock Mass. While I prefer Midnight Mass, it just isn't practical for the children at this age. This allowed us to return home by 6 PM and have a nice leisurely meal without feeling rushed to leave for Mass. And since we weren't rushed we had our first ever Fo7F dessert! Mom made this white cheese and creme between filbert and chocolate disks. She added raspberries, blue berries and a raspberry syrup. Mr. L called it the perfect palate cleanser.
The two really enjoyed working together. Often times I heard them debating their different views on how best to prepare whatever, but their back and forth banter was enjoyable. Mr. L was actually amazed that Mr. W can ever pull this off alone because it is! I agree, I am very lucky to have him provide us with such a special meal each Christmas.
Everyone enjoyed themselves, Mrs. H-G is really the perfect food audience, she'll eat everything happily. It was after 1 AM by the time we finished dinner. And then I still had to wrap presents. By the time I got to sleep it was 3 AM. Fortunately the boys aren't eager to wake up super early to open presents so I was able to sleep in until 8, but it was a long hard day! (Lesson learned, go back to wrapping presents well in advance!)


  1. Um , YUM! May I please join your next Feast of Seven Fishes? I didn't know it was possible to have so much deliciousness in one meal.

    Love your blog! I'm CityBee on TB. Looking forward to following :)

  2. Thanks! Glad to see you here! :)