For those with Catholic and/or Italian roots, you may be familiar with the holiday tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes.
It’s just what it sounds like: Friends and family gather during the holidays (typically on Christmas Eve) and dine on seven different fish dishes, served in accordance with the absence of red meat.
Sounds like our kind of party, right?
As much as we’d love to, it’s a bit difficult to get all of our chef friends in one place, especially during the holidays. So for the past few years, we’ve been doing the next best thing: Inviting seven chefs to tell us what dish they would bring to a holiday feast, and trying not to salivate too much while going down the list.
This year, much like last year, we’d like to shine an end-of-the-year spotlight on some of our chefs who’ve participated in the Alabama Seafood Cook-Off (ASCO) during our first three years. Check out their dishes, and if you like what you see, pay them a visit in 2018 to sample what they’re serving.
Chef Brody Olive, Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach (2017 ASCO Winner, 2016/2015 ASCO Runner-Up)
Alabama Oyster Stew
“Alabama oyster stew is perfect for the holiday season! With some 28 acres of oyster farms in Mobile Bay happening now, the oyster game is strong on the Alabama Gulf Coast. We are seeing some absolutely phenomenal bi-valves this December, from Murder Point to Bama Beauties. This stew is rich, smoky, and aromatic which makes for a perfect vessel for these oysters.”
Chef Josh Quick, Odette, Florence (2016 ASCO Winner)
Spicy Blue Crab Dip
“As a young couple, my wife and I would treat ourselves with a spicy crab dip from a local specialty market. This year, a recreation of our excitement made with fresh-picked Alabama Blue Crab—nothing comes close to its flavor! Lightly sautéed onions and garlic combined with white wine and a splash of Pernod, fresh Alabama Blue Crab, some Duke’s mayo, lots of fresh herbs, and mascarpone. Top this off with some butter sourdough breadcrumbs and bake until bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve this with grilled bread and some crudités. I hope this inspires you to enjoy some great Alabama crab this holiday season!”
Chef George Reis, 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, Birmingham (2015 ASCO Winner)
Pompano en Papillote
“It’s actually pretty simple, just Pompano in a paper bag. If we’re talking about the holidays, it’s fun! For home cooking, fish is kind of tough, but this one is simple—you cut your parchment in the shape of a heart, put your veggies in there, then put them in the oven and bake them. Once they’re done, the paper bags puff up and everybody gets to rip open their bag and inside is their dinner. It’s kind of like unwrapping a gift.”
Chef Jason Ramirez, Villaggio Grille, Orange Beach (2017 ASCO Runner-Up)
Catch of the Day
“I’m originally from Georgia and I have a Hispanic background, so not much fish was evolved in our holidays. Since living here on the Coast, I try to take one fishing trip during the holidays just to get out and enjoy the water. That being said, I’d have to say I would bring the catch of that day. It could be Red Drum, Speckled Trout, or whatever we reel in that day. We just clean and filet the fish and flour and fry with the friends and family—that’s what’s important about the holidays.”
Chef Kelly Grady Hargroves, Wind Creek Hotel & Casino, Montgomery (2017 ASCO Contestant)
Fried Triggerfish & Grits
“I grew up in a family that loved to fish—between that and an uncle that ran a shrimp boat, we always had an abundance of fresh and frozen seafood on hand. One of the simplest and most enjoyable meals my mom would make was fried fish and grits served with yellow mustard. For this feast, I would cornmeal dust and pan fry gulf Triggerfish, served over rich & creamy stone-ground grits with a brown ale whole-grain homemade mustard. Simple but warm, with the memories of my family.”
Chef Leonardo Maurelli III, Ariccia Trattoria, Auburn (2016 ASCO Contestant)
Gulf Seafood Paella
“We always have different seafood dishes every Christmas. I go home for my momma and my dad’s cooking, but I started making Gulf Seafood Paella for my dad a couple of years ago, and it has become a staple of the table! I love to use Gulf shrimp; we are lucky to be able to still get fresh Snapper or Grouper, so I use either, plus mussels, clams, rabbit, chicken, and chorizo. It hits that need for everything. I cook it in a large paella pan outside, and then everyone just comes and scoops out what they want straight from the pan. Believe it or not, there are usually not many leftovers, but there is a lot of moaning and groaning from over-filled bellies!”
Chef Miguel Figueroa, Amsterdam Café, Auburn (2015 ASCO Contestant)
Ensalada de Bacalao
“We are from Puerto Rico, so dinnertime at Christmas does not consist of a few dishes—we go all out! One of my favorite traditional Puerto Rican dishes is ensalada de bacalao, which is a dried Cod salad. Living near the Gulf, I have the advantage of receiving fresh fish in my restaurant every other day. Red Snapper is one of my favorite fresh fishes that the Gulf offers, so I substitute the Cod for a fresh Gulf Red Snapper. I salt the Snapper and let it rest for a few days, then I simmer the fish until it reaches the desired saltiness. Next, I cool it down and add peppers, onions, cilantro, olives, and garlic, and I season it with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper. I can eat this salad on everything. Add rice, beans, avocados, and “amarillos” (fried yellow plantains). My family loves it!”