The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, has recently gained more recognition, tossing seafood back into the seasonal spotlight. It may also help restaurants reel in aquatic-curious holiday guests.

“The Bear,” one of the TV streaming era’s breakout hits, has folks clamoring for Italian beef and BOH kitchen drama. A character study of a talented young Chicago chef, his family, and his team, the second season of “The Bear” included an intense, but star-studded holiday episode centered around The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

This Southern Italian tradition refers to the Vigilia di Natale, or the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus, and the long tradition of Catholics consuming fish in lieu of meat protein during that period. In honor of the feast, let’s explore seven seafood options to help usher in the season.

Squid Game

The number one breaded seafood appetizer on menus is calamari, Italian for squid, and over the years, fried calamari has been incorporated even more into the Seven Fishes lineup. Calamari is rich in protein and packed with B and C vitamins.

Consider utilizing Roma® Chef-Ready Fresh Squid or Roma Breaded Calamari with different dayparts, adding sliced, fried jalapeno peppers or pepperoncinis with a side of garlic aioli. Toss fried calamari with sliced peppadew peppers, sliced kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Or even simply drizzle the squid with tomato sauce, and then top with a poached egg and some shredded Parmesan cheese.

Doc Oc

Another member of the mollusk family, octopus has also gained popularity on Seven Fishes platters, as well as restaurant menus. It’s a good source of lean protein, rich in heathy unsaturated fats, and is thought to help prevent heart disease. The tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat and exciting visual appeal is a head-turner capable of making waves on social feeds.

Empire’s Treasure Octopus, for example, is partnered with the world’s leading source of Spanish octopus and offers top quality and consistency due to efficient, single-day fishing. Guests will love sinking their forks into a fire grilled octopus salad with a grilled tomatillo and jalapeno vinaigrette, sprinkled with Cotija cheese. And you might just blow some minds placing tender octopus atop a wood fired pizza crust with a swirl of spicy tomato sauce and melty, creamy Burrata cheese.

A Fish TaleNod to Cod

One of the more well-known dishes of the Seven Fishes is baccalá, or salted cod fish. A simple fish like cod, or a similar species, would represent the customs of working-class communities in Southern Italy. Baccalá can be prepared with a variety of tomato or wine sauces; there are very few limits to your options with this ultra-savory and subtly sweet fish.

Other alternatives, perhaps using Fresh Catch® Icelandic Cod or Bay Winds® Pacific Cod Fillets, include forming succulent fish balls with a rich tomato sauce or experimenting with Mexican flavors for a Contigo® El Fuego Fish plate, starring seafood hot sauce and tropical ingredients.

Make Way for Mahi

Also rapidly growing in popularity, mahi mahi is low in mercury, making it among the healthier fish to eat. Mahi contains many important vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids — in fact, eating just a small portion will give you about 75% of your daily selenium recommendation.

Try employing a seasonal pecan crust to really bring out the mildly sweet taste of the fish or add spicy and citrus elements with a flavor-bursting and on-trend ancho chili jam. Another great holiday option would be a South American wild caught, mango habanero dusted Empire’s Treasure® Mahi Mahi Fillet with harvest yam and apple butter.

Sal High

Ever-popular salmon is prized for its wellness benefits, in addition to its mild, buttery taste. Salmon is effectively a health superfood, helping in a myriad of ways from boosting brain function to even assisting your body regulate sleep. Salmon is so in-demand that Performance offers several different exclusively branded varieties including sockeye, Faroe Island, and Scottish smoked.

Play around with Asian-inspired sauces such as teriyaki for a BBQ special like Fresh Catch Spicy Sweet Salmon Burnt Ends. Or use Yukon gold shredded potatoes for a crispy crust encasing delicate Bay Winds Salmon. For holiday events, Empire’s Treasure Smoked Salmon on crackers with light dollops of sour cream, onions, and pepper can help get the party started.

No Halibuts About It

Generations of fishermen have departed from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the number one fishing port in the U.S., and entered the central Bering Sea in search of the best tasting and finest wild-caught finfish in the world. The result is that Alaskan Halibut, with white, large, flaky meat, is one of the most highly regarded fish in dining.

An item like Bay Winds Halibut is sustainable, line-caught, and all natural. Consider the possibilities of using this pristine fish as a pan-seared special with a lemon cream sauce and fresh shallots, or make it street-friendly as a featured ingredient in Cajun tacos with andouille sausage and Creole mustard.

South Pole Pescado

Last, but certainly not least, in our journey through seafood, is premium and sustainable Chilean sea bass. Harvested from the pure, cold, deep waters of the Scotia Sea between the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, Bay Winds Chilean Sea Bass is Marine Steward Council (MSC) certified and processed with the industry’s highest specifications, so guests get the most bang for their buck.

Wow larger groups with shareable sea bass ceviche, served alongside dippable fried plantains, or sear the fish and lay it atop a bed of braised urban greens, blended with harvest fruit, bacon, and cannellini beans. Even explore adding a touch of Hispanic flavor by accompanying the fish with roasted corn salsa and a tangy chili lime sauce.

“The Bear” may have helped put The Feast of the Seven Fishes back into the national conversation, but there’s really no limit to how seafood can net you new sales during the holidays.

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