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By Bao Ong | December 14, 2015 | Food & Drink
Italians and Italian-Americans may debate on how to properly celebrate the Feast of Seven Fish, but one thing they do agree on is that it should be celebrated on Christmas Eve—with lots of food. We consulted with Citarella’s own Joe Gurrera to get his advice on how you can conquer the holiday seafood celebration at home.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules on how many dishes to prepare, Joe chooses to prepare a dozen dishes for his Feast of Seven Fish. He’ll typically shop the day before or the day of to source the best possible ingredients. Citarella started overnight shipping its seafood nationwide in September, so plan your menu in advance.
Oyster shooters, stuffed calamari, sautéed scallops, zuppa di pesce, and fried shrimp—that’s just the beginning of Joe’s varied menu that he shares every year for close family and friends at his home in Bridgehampton. But when it comes to your own feast, there’s plenty of room to be creative and accommodating. “It’s a tradition,” says Joe. “But it all depends, you can choose anything you want.”
He’ll usually kick the evening off with oyster shooters, dressed with vodka or tequila. Then he’ll sauté up some scallops and fry up shrimp. One of his favorite dishes to fry is merluzzo (a cod fish). One of Joe’s tips? Have plenty of food. You can always serve extras as appetizers on Christmas Day.
He also keeps the menu interesting: “I try to give them things that they don’t normally have,” Joe says. “I’m not going to grill swordfish or tuna. They get that the rest of the year.”
The dishes are laid out on Joe’s kitchen island, where guests can dine casually and come back for second and third helpings. His Feast of Seven Fish can go for anywhere from five to six hours, so no one wants to sit around a dinner table for that long. Guests are enjoying the food, drinks, and, most importantly, catching up on the past year. Joe also takes breaks between cooking each dish. There’s no need to cook everything at once.
Joe keeps a variety of alcoholic beverages on hand to please all his guests. While he enjoys a light red wine, like a pinot noir, he realizes some of the women may want bubbles or rosé. Others want to stick with vodka or beer. “We hang out and enjoy the company,” he says. “It’s our tradition to celebrate the season with great food and great friends.”
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