I’m back home in Colorado for Christmas, and my family is, as usual, using the holidays as an excuse to eat in excess all of the wonderful foods that we may normally try to limit throughout the rest of the year! My mother has always been a very good cook as well as hostess, and among the food that have graced our Christmas-week menu include Lobster salad with pomegranates, perfectly seasoned steaks, asparagus with pepper butter, spicy shrimp, and chicken teriyaki (complete with a Sake aperitivo).
One of our new Christmas traditions, begun last year, is to have a Feast of the Seven Fishes on December 24, which in our family translates to seven different types of seafood dishes being eaten from lunch to dinner. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American tradition. (The “American” bit is seemingly key as The Italian, my non-American Italian boyfriend, has never heard of such a thing). The feast commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It is unclear exactly where the number “7” came from, although Wikipedia states that:
“One popular theory is the number represents completion, as shown in Genesis 2:2: ‘By the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.’ During the feast of the seven fishes, participants celebrate the completion of God’s promise of the Messiah through baby Jesus.”
Our seven-fish feast this year includes: lobster salad, spicy crab cakes, lox and cucumbers with creme fraiche, scallops with red pepper butter, pasta with mussels, clams and shrimp, and salmon. It’s a lot of food to cram into one day – but we manage to do it, and happily so!
I’m going to share what I thought was one of the standout recipes from our feast, Spicy Crab Cakes. The recipe is from Emeril Lagasse and definitely carries a kick! We enjoyed it with two different salsas: a Mango Salsa and a Mustard Creme Fraiche.
Spicy Crab Cakes (Emeril Lagasse)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup seeded and finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup seeded and finely chopped yellow bell pepper
1 T chopped garlic
1-2 pounds lump crabmeat, make sure shells and cartilage is removed
1/4 cup chopped green onions, green parts only, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2-3 T Dijon mustard
Juice of one fresh lemon (or 3 T)
3/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup flour, mixed with 1-2 T Emeril Essence spices (recipe follows)
2 eggs (for egg wash) mixed with 1/4 cup water
1. Melt butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, celery and bell peppers. Season with salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat, green onions, Parmesan, parsley, mustard and lemon juice. Mix, then add sauteed veggies and 3/4 cup bread crumbs. Fold all together.
3. Mix the mayonnaise, Worcestershire Sauce and hot pepper sauce together. Fold in the mayonnaise mixture with the crab mixture.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of the crab mixture. Form into patties around 1 inch thick. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg wash and then coat with bread crumbs. Refrigerate overnight.
5. In a large saute pan, heat vegetable oil. Pan fry the cakes until lightly golden, about 2-4 minutes on each side. Season with more Essence spices if desired (for more spices)
6. Serve with Mango Salsa and Creme Fraiche.
Directions for Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup
Directions for Mango Salsa:
Combine all ingredients. Can make 1 day in advance and refrigerate.
1 ripe mango, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped poblano peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon salt
Directions for Mustard Creme Fraiche:
Combine all ingredients. Serve at room temp. Will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days.
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup mayo
4 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 drops Tabasco sauce