A couple years ago, we adopted a tradition from our friends across the pond.
The Feast of Seven Fishes is a holiday tradition rooted in Catholicism and born of Southern Italy. It’s a simple yet tasty gathering—a meal consisting of seven different seafood dishes, served typically on Christmas Eve in accordance with the absence of red meat.
In 2014, we asked seven of our friends—chefs, processors, and administrators—what they’d bring to the proverbial table if we were to gather on Christmas Eve, and they thought up some great dishes. So we thought we’d do it again.
This year, we decided to do a different theme by featuring the contestants from our first two Alabama Seafood Cook-Offs. (Yes, we had four contestants each year, but our friend Chef Brody Olive competed both years, so it works out perfectly!)
And we must say, our chefs all made excellent choices. Check them out below, then call up your friends and family and put together your own Feast of Seven Fishes!
Chef Brandon Burleson, Central, Montgomery
Gulf Shrimp & Oyster Gumbo
“When asked what I would bring to a Feast of Seven Fishes family dinner, I immediately thought of my Nana Sandra’s gumbo. Dark, rich roux, the aroma of popcorn as the flour was toasting, then adding the fresh vegetables, herbs (especially oregano), Conecuh sausage, and plenty of Gulf shrimp and oysters. To me, the key ingredients are the oyster liquor and stock from the shrimp shells as the liquid. Serve it over rice or classic potato salad and this will be an all-day favorite.”
Chef Gillian Clark, Curate Restaurant & Café, Mobile
Gulf Shrimp Roll
“I love this adaptation of a classic New England Lobster Roll using fresh Gulf shrimp. It’s great if you use the mini split-top buns and pass as an appetizer, or regular-sized split-top buns for lunch or the outdoor barbecue. Simply poach the shrimp in water seasoned with creole seasoning, cool and chop coarsely, and toss them with a few more ingredients—minced sweet onion and celery, lemon juice, mayo, and salt and pepper. Butter and toast the bun on both sides, fill the rolls with the shrimp salad, and serve!”
Chef Miguel Figueroa, Amsterdam Café, Auburn
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!”
Chef Leonardo Maurelli III, Ariccia Trattoria, Auburn
Bacalao & Shrimp Al Ajillo w/ Boiled Potatoes
“My family is Italian and Latino. We traditionally do bacalao, which is the Spanish version of the Italian dish baccala. We also do camarones al ajillo, or shrimp in extra virgin olive oil and garlic. These dishes are served with sliced boiled potatoes. It is a tradition in our home. Since moving to Alabama, we exchanged the traditional salted cod in the bacalao for fresh Gulf Snapper or Grouper. There are no better shrimp than Gulf shrimp, so we are able to leave this recipe as is. These dishes are a representation of my family’s culture and traditions, and I get a chance to provide my take on something that is near and dear to me, making the memories of my grandmothers, mother, and all the women in my family proud.”
Chef Brody Olive, Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach
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
Marinated Gulf Seafood w/ Pomegranate Red Curry Dressing
“The seafood would include Alabama shrimp and crab mostly, with some pieces of grilled fish as well. I like to serve chilled seafood with a bright, creamy dressing to give it richness and a clean finish. I like the layers of heat and flavor from the curry and the crispness of the vegetables, plus the sweetness from the pomegranate plays well off the sweet crab. This made-in-advance dish gives you plenty of time to mingle while the other dishes are being prepared.”
Chef George Reis, 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar, Birmingham
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.”