• Tommy Centola

Try new Christmas Eve tradition

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional Italian-American celebration on Christmas Eve. Since Christmas Eve is a fasting day in some religions, the use of seafood allows the observation of the fast while celebrating the coming of Christmas Day. This tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil. It is unknown why the number of dishes is seven. Some say it is because seven is the most repeated number in the Bible.

Today, I am sharing three seafood dishes that would be a great addition to any feast: Hot Crawfish Dip, Linguini with White Clam Sauce and Catfish with Pecans. While the Linguini is not a Creole or Cajun style dish, the other two are definitely native to the Louisiana area. These dishes represent my Italian heritage along with my training in the best food city in the world, New Orleans.

Here is a great starter to any meal. This obviously taste better when you use crawfish tails leftover from a backyard boil. However, feel free to use frozen tails when crawfish are out of season. This dish taste great using either type of tail.

Hot Crawfish Dish

1 pound crawfish tails, chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Creole seasoning, salt, black pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Sauté bell pepper, onions, celery, garlic and crawfish in butter. Add cream cheese, lower temperature and cover to let cream cheese melt. Add mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Creole seasoning to taste. Simmer approximately 15-20 minutes. Add parsley. Serve warm.

This is a traditional Feast dish. It is an easy one to prepare. The recipe calls for chopped clams. You can use whole canned baby clams in their place. I make it both ways because I can’t decide which way I like it better.

Linguini with White Clam Sauce

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons flour

3 6.5ounce cans chopped clams, save juice

1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice

1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped

¼ teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

8 ounces linguini cooked to al dente

Fresh Parmesan cheese grated

Cook pasta, drain, and return to pot it was cooked in. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic in butter until golden brown. Mix in the flour and cook for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add the clam juice, reserved from cans and bottle, and seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add clams and heat for 2 minutes. Pour sauce over pasta and toss until the pasta is coated. Top individual portions with Parmesan cheese.

This is a twist on the classic Trout Almondine. Ella Brennan wanted a dish that used local ingredients. So, Trout with Pecans was created. I have taken it a step further by switching catfish for trout. Of course, you would not find this dish on a traditional Italian dinner. It does work well for the Feast.

Catfish with Pecans

4 catfish fillets, 5-7 ounces

Creole seasoning

Egg wash

Seafood Breading

Canola oil for cooking catfish

Meuniere sauce

1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

While making meuniere sauce, add pecans to sauce so the pecans can brown with the butter. Rinse fillets and pat dry. Season both sides with seafood seasoning. Dip each fillet in egg wash, and then dredge in Seafood Breading, shaking off excess. Generously coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and heat over moderately high heat. Sauté fillets, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes on each side. Place fillet on serving plate and top with Pecan Meuniere sauce.

Seafood Breading

3 pounds corn flour

3 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Mix well. Store in an airtight container. It will hold for 3 months.

Meuniere Sauce

2 sticks butter

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter until it stops bubbling and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan begin to brown. Carefully add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce; the butter will foam. Cook until the foam subsides.

This Christmas Eve, start a new family tradition. Serve your version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. You can use any seafood dishes that you wish. You may even want to reduce the number of dishes or make them appetizer portions. Either way, it is a great way to celebrate Christmas Eve.

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