La Vigilia: The Feast of Seven Fishes

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m Italian-American. My mother’s family is very Italian and as such on Christmas Eve every year we eat seafood and pasta of some kind. In recent years my family has started to do the feast of the 7 fishes.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it’s not called by this name in Italy and is not a “feast” in the stricter sense of “holiday,” but a grand meal.[1][3] Strictly speaking, Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day, and the abundance of seafood reflects the tradition of abstinence from red meat until the actual feast of Christmas Day itself.


This year I wanted to photograph my family’s amazing efforts and share their recipes. So from my family to yours, enjoy!

Baked Shrimp Scampi



  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra‑large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14‑inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, All Rights Reserved

Gloria’s notes:

I made this exactly as written. Ina Garten doesn’t make mistakes!”


Classic Clams Casino



  • 12 hard-shell clams (littlenecks or cherrystones), scrubbed
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 slices bacon, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the broiler on high.

Arrange the clams on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Broil until they open, 5 to 7 minutes, removing each clam with tongs as it opens and transferring it to a clean rimmed baking sheet to cool. Once all the clams have opened, collect any spilled clam juice from the first baking sheet in a measuring cup.

When the clams are cool enough to handle, discard the top shells: Pick up a clam; holding the bottom shell and keeping the clam level, twist off the top shell. Arrange the opened clams on the baking sheet. Run a spoon underneath each clam to loosen it from its bottom shell. Distribute the reserved clam juice among the clams.

Melt the butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half,about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, parsley, and a few grinds of black pepper. (Do not season with salt.)

Spoon some of the breadcrumb mixture onto each clam. Top each with a tangle of bacon strips. Broil the clams until the topping is just browned, about 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges or squeeze the wedges over the clams before serving.

Serves 4 as an appetizer
by Leslie Pendleton from Fine Cooking Issue 113

Gloria’s notes:

“This recipe was a real hit with the crowd. used it as an hors d’oeurves! And, yes, I know we used bacon on a recipe that we seved for the “Vigilia.” But the bacon IS essential!

Loved learning this method to cook clams for use in any dish. Each clam opens and has its juice right there.”


Scallop Crudo with Grapefruit and White Balsamic Emulsion



  • 6 sea scallops, abductor muscle removed and cleaned
  • 1 grapefuit, zested
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • Olive oil, about 2/3 cup
  • 1 bulb fennel, fronds removed and julienne
  • Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt


  1. Using a very sharp knife, slice each scallop into thin rounds. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve
  2. Cut the top and bottom off the grapefruit, and slice away the peel. Segment the grapefruit into sections, and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the white balsamic, jalapeno, and grapefruit zest. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to form a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To serve, place a few slices of scallop on a plate. Top with some julienne fennel and grapefruit segments. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and sprinkle a few grains of fleur de sel on top. Serve chilled.

Recipe by Charleston Cooks!

Gloria’s notes:

Keep scallops cold so it will be easy to slice them thinly.

We also used oranges with the grapefruit. We also served this dish over arugula.

Tomato Tarragon Soup



  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 large vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lump crab for garnish


Sauté onion and garlic in butter for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, paste and cream, and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add fresh tomatoes and tarragon, and cook for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with crab meat.

by Five Loaves Cafe

Gloria’s notes:

Instead of the tomato sauce, I use homemade marinara sauce.

As for the tarragon, I add a lot of chopped tarragon and continue to taste it – I like it to be strong!

I add lump crab to the soup and garnish with backfin crab

Penne with Vodka Sauce



  • 1 quart Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce, blended until smooth
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound penne


Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Gloria’s notes:

We made this with ravioli instead of penne. Make your own marinara sauce (not store bought) and add vodka, but don’t overdo it!

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