Favorite Fish Recipes for Your Christmas Eve Feast

Roasted basil salmon on a bed of fennel and tomato
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a big deal in our family. Although the origins of this feast are somewhat mired in controversy, it is a holiday that my Italian-American family celebrated each and every year with absolute gusto. For as long as I can remember, our parents would bundle us against the cold and off we went to celebrate the occasion at my Uncle Nelson’s apartment.  His family lived above the liquor store that he owned and we would run up the steps to his apartment, aroma of wine and spirits floating up the hall, excited to see our cousins, exchange gifts and eat for hours. The burning Yule log was always featured prominently on the TV set.  
I now carry on this tradition with much love and excitement.  The formal sit down dinner is now replaced with a buffet as family and friends come and go, be it for one fish or seven.  The seven fish frequently expand to more but always with much excitement that I sit to plan the menu for the festivity ahead.  
I am sharing two of my favorite recipes that occasionally make their way into the rotation of recipes for the Feast.  The salmon dish is a festive showstopper that I typically serve at the end of the menu.  The brodetto is a more recent addition that knocks off four different fish in one swoop if you are looking to simplify things a bit. 
And from our table to yours, wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!
Roasted Basil Salmon on a Bed of Fennel and Tomato
Adapted from Tyler Florence’s Roasted Fish 
• 3 tablespoons olive oil 
• 3 anchovy fillets
• 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced 
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• Pinch of crushed red pepper
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Side of salmon, about 3 pounds, boned, skin on
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
• Herbed Panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the over to 450 degress Fahrenheit.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the anchovy, onion, garlic and fennel.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and caramelized, about 5-10 minutes. Add in the wine and allow to simmer for a minute or two. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and red pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are softened a bit, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
Place the tomato-fennel mixture in the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay the fish flesh side down on a cutting board. Lay the fish on top, skin side down.  Season the top with salt and pepper. Mix the chopped basil into the softened butter and smear the top of the fish with the basil butter.  Sprinkle the buttered fish with the breadcrumbs to cover.  
Place the fish in the oven and roast until medium rare, about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of the fish. Finish under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the breadcrumb mixture.  Be careful to not overcook. 
To serve, divide the fish into portions and serve alongside the roasted vegetables.  
Seafood Brodetto 
• ¼ cup olive oil 
• 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, minced plus one clove for the bread
• 1 small or ½ large fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped, fronds reserved
• Pinch of crushed red pepper
• ½ pound calamari, cleaned; bodies cut into ½ inch rings; tentacles cut in half
• 1½ cups dry white wine, divided
• 1 (28-ounce can) chopped tomatoes with their juices
• 1 cup bottled clam juice
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• About 15 littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed
¾ pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
• ½ pound scallops, halved horizontally
• Crusty Italian bread cut into thick slices
In a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, fennel and crushed red pepper.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. 
Add in the calamari. Cook, stirring occasionally until opaque, about 3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring often, until almost all the wine has evaporated, about 15 minutes. 
Add in the tomato puree, clam broth and remaining ½ cup of white wine and bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Cook until mixture is thickened, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. (Note: I usually go a bit easy on the salt at this stage, as the shellfish can sometimes be quite salty.) 
Add the clams. Cover and cook until the shells have opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Discard any that do not open. As the clams open, place in a bowl.  Add in the shrimp and scallops and cook just until opaque, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Place the clams back into the pot and stir to combine.  
Toast the bread slices and rub liberally with the remaining garlic clove.  Sprinkle the brodetto with reserved fronds of fennel.  Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and serve with garlic toast. Buon appetito! 
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.

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