The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a beloved Christmas Eve tradition among Italian-American families, who celebrate the holiday with a host of different seafood. The feast has its roots in poverty-stricken southern regions of Italy where fish were plentiful. When Italian families came to the United States, they brought their culinary traditions with them.
Not everyone celebrates the holidays with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but if you’re on the North Fork, chances are you love seafood. To that end, we’ve curated seven delectable seafood dishes from local restaurants that you should try this season, from gourmet fish and chips to a savory seafood stew that will warm your heart.
FISH AND CHIPS AT ANKER, GREENPORT
Fish and chips are a British staple, and Anker’s take on the crowd-pleasing fried fare pays homage to its English roots. “It’s one of those things that we’re proud of,” said Will Horowitz of Green Hill Group. “We’re pretty honest about the fact that we take a long time to make it.”
Rather than using cod, which is more common for the dish, Anker uses the fattier local black sea bass with the skin on. “So rarely do you find people using a fattier fish like that,” said Horowitz, noting that the restaurant experimented with a variety of fish before landing on the bass. The batter is made to be very thin and crunchy, almost see-through. For the french fries, “we have someone who comes in just to make french fries at the crack of dawn. They do it like an old-fashioned British chip.” The fries soak overnight, then are blanched in hot water and shocked in an ice bath, hand-pressed and dehydrated in the freezer. Then they’re pre-fried at low temperature, cooled down and fried again for service. The accompanying tartar sauce, made by chef Diego Garcia, has a bit of Mexican flair, with smoked guajillo chiles. Fried food is comfort food, and this dish was made with extra love.
SHINNECOCK SEA SCALLOPS AT WINDAMERE, MATTITUCK
This dish, created by chef Jeff Monsour, features sea scallops with parmesan risotto, crispy wild mushrooms and parmesan mousse. The mousse is “my version of a mousse created by Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, via Stephan Bogardus,” said Monsour, noting that Bogardus mentored him at The Halyard in Greenport. “The North Fork is an ideal region to celebrate with a Feast of the Seven Fishes, with its abundance of fresh fish during the winter months,” Monsour said.
LOCAL SEAFOOD STEW AT NOAH’S, GREENPORT
This dish is a play on cioppino, a rustic fisherman’s stew, said chef Noah Schwartz. It’s got a tomato-lobster broth, with mussels, clams, local cod, rock shrimp and squid. “The squid cooks up really tender and is the last thing that goes in,” said Schwartz. “We sauté the other seafood to get a little color on it, then add the mussels and clams, broth, squid and steam it all.” The stew is then finished with a touch of garlic butter with parsley and lemon. The lobster broth is made with saffron and toasted tomato paste, making for a rich color, while the lobster stock itself is made from the shells of lobsters that are steamed for the restaurant’s lobster roll. The stew is served with crusty Blue Duck Bakery batard bread brushed with garlic butter. The whole dish is finished with a roasted garlic aioli that melts into the dish and onto the bread, making for the perfect stew for cold weather months.
GRILLED ATLANTIC SALMON AT SOUTHOLD SOCIAL, SOUTHOLD
Southold Social, which opened earlier this year, has a salmon dish that is filled with seasonal taste. “This dish is very unique,” said chef and co-owner François Payard. “The dish is simultaneously savory and sweet. The apple cider vinegar in the farm apple cider reduction provides acidity, and the butternut squash adds a nice sweetness. The Atlantic salmon provides the perfect palette for the array of flavors, and with the hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and kale, it’s absolutely delicious.”
BEULAH OYSTERS AT LITTLE CREEK OYSTERS, GREENPORT
These grilled oysters are a big hit at Little Creek Oysters. The topping was originally created with both clams and oysters in mind and has pesto, butter, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and an accompanying crunchy French baguette. “It’s a cheap excuse to eat bread and pesto butter,” joked owner Ian Wile. “We’re of two sides of the oyster world here, one is purist and the other couldn’t be further from that — we could sell an empty shell with that butter and bread and you’d be just fine with it.” The Beulah butter is also available for sale at Little Creek. The Beulah was conceived because Little Creek wanted to have an original creation. “It was really meant to be our own thing; not a Rockefeller or one of the other classics. I like to say it’s steeped in myth — it’s something that’s brand-new or something that’s been around for 150 years.”
OVEN-ROASTED FLUKE AT LÉON 1909, SHELTER ISLAND
This new restaurant on Shelter Island will appeal to anyone looking for a Riviera, coastal feel. The oven-roasted fluke is one of the more Mediterranean-inspired items, said co-owner Valerie Mnuchin. The fluke sits on a bed of peperonata (a mixture of peppers and eggplant) with gigante beans, lemon and olives. “We wanted to use a wonderful local fish,” said Mnuchin.
AHI TUNA BURGER AT FIRST AND SOUTH, GREENPORT
The tuna burger is made with a sesame oil-flavored house-ground Grade-A tuna. The fish is ground with seasoning of sesame seeds, sesame oil and ginger and hand-formed into the burger. The toasted Martin’s potato bun is dressed with wasabi aioli and topped with an Asian-style slaw of pickled red onions, sliced cucumber and red and green cabbage. The burger is finished with a tamari glaze. Chef Max Benson, who joined First and South a year ago, wanted to give the burger his own rendition. “I enjoy cooking with Asian flavors and a Hawaiian style,” he said. Most important, he wants readers to know: “Order it medium rare.”