Other theories are that it represents the seventh day (when God rested), that the number represents the seven hills of Rome, or the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic church. But then, there are also families who tend to serve upwards of twelve or thirteen dishes or courses, which could represent the twelve apostles (or the twelve apostles plus Jesus).
Just as origin theories vary, so does the menu in every household. It sounds to me much like a Thanksgiving menu. Every family has their favorite dishes...the ones that if removed, would mar the tradition. And just like atmosphere varies from one house to the next on Thanksgiving day, it can be either solemn or celebratory, depending on the house and family that you're in.
The menu dates back to medieval times and the Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat or milk products on Fridays and certain holy days. While I would take that to mean they're eating vegetarian those days, I grew up watching my Catholic friends eat fish on Fridays. I consider fish and other seafood to be meat, but hey, who am I to judge?
Since exploring other cultures through food is one of the things I like to do best, I've been wanting to put together a menu inspired by the tradition. What better way to do that than to ask some of my fellow food bloggers if they'd like to join me? My contribution is this mixed seafood risotto, studded generously with shrimp, mild white fish and mussels. It is lightly scented with anise from the addition of Pernod and fresh tarragon, which adds a bit of brightness to the creamy rice and hearty seafood.
Mixed Seafood Risotto
A creamy risotto scented with tarragon and studded with mussels, shrimp, and fish.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Keywords: entree pescetarian soy-free sugar-free fish mussels rice shrimp Feast of the Seven Fishes Italian
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 8 cups fish broth, seafood broth, clam juice or a combination
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, diced small
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup Pernod (or Anisette, Sambuca, Ouzo)
- 1 pound white fish
- 12 ounces uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 8 ounces mussels
- kosher or sea salt
- ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
- lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
Put broth in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer; reduce heat and keep warm over low heat.
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions saute and until they start to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and saute for another 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Add Pernod and stir until liquid is absorbed, 1-2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the warm broth to rice. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding broth, a 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is tender but still slightly firm in center and and mixture is creamy, simmering until liquid is absorbed before each addition and stirring often, about 25 minutes. You may have a little broth left over, but not much.
Add a couple pinches of salt and white pepper and the shrimp and fish, put a lid on the pot and let cook 3 minutes or until they are opaque in center. In the meantime, steam the mussels in until they open. Mix mussels into rice. Remove risotto from heat and stir in tarragon and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper, as needed.
Serve with lemon wedges, if you wish.
Brought to America from Southern Italy where it is all now but forgotten, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a meal eaten by Italian-Americans that features (at least) seven fish/seafood dishes. Along with our hosts, myself and Lora from Savoring Italy, some bloggers have gotten together to share menu ideas for your Seven Fishes feast. Along with the traditional seven fish and seafood dishes, we've included some side dishes, a palate cleanser, a dessert, and a cocktail.
Salmon Rillettes from Karen's Kitchen Stories
Marinated Shrimp Salad from A Healthy Life For Me
Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod from Cravings of a Lunatic
Pasta con le Sarde from Savoring Italy
Tuscan Seafood Stew from Food Done Light
Mixed Seafood Risotto from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Linguine with Scallops and Broccoli from Kudos Kitchen By Renee
Brussels Sprouts Risotto from Eats Well With Others
Marinated Roasted Vegetables from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Limoncello Sorbet from Creative Culinary
Zuppa Inglese from Christina's Cucina
Cranberry Limoncello Spritzer from Snappy Gourmet
Have you ever heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes? Are you Italian or Italian-American? I'd love to hear what dishes you would (or do) include on your Christmas Eve menu and any traditions that go along with them.
A few more recipes for your Feast of the Seven Fishes Menu:
Cod on Roasted Pepper and White Beans
Hot Crab Dip
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Whole Wheat Spaghetti w/ Spicy Tomato and Clam Broth
CELEBRATION: The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve on The Nibble
How to Cook the Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Even on Bon Appetit
Mario Batali's Feast of the Seven Fishes on Epicurious