While for many the classic image of a Christmas feast is of a golden roasted bird - specifically a turkey, front and centre with a glutton of trimmings festooning it, there has often been a place for fish and seafood at the centre of the table.
In Italy, many prepare what is known as the “Feast Of The Seven Fishes”, a truly astonishing feast worthy of the name, which will typically include a fish stew, salt cod, and fried calamari!
Meanwhile, in Poland, the Christmas Eve supper known as Wigilia will usually begin the moment the first star appears in the sky and stretch on well into the night. This meat-free meal features beetroot soup, pickled herrings, and pierogi.
Elements of those may seem fairly familiar, give or take some ingredients, especially in comparison with the carp-based traditions, popular among some Central and Eastern European households. Even more unusual than using this oily freshwater fish as a Christmas feast, the carp are typically kept captive in the family bathtub for 2-3 days beforehand, before being served breaded and fried as a part of a traditional Christmas meal!
Even if you still want to head down the turkey route for your Christmas centrepiece, there’s still plenty of space for delicious fish and seafood treats, whether it’s to kick things off with appealing appetizers or some show-stealing side dishes.
With that in mind, here are some of our favourite delicious ideas for putting seafood on the table this Christmas:
This classic Italian appetizer is typically made from grilled bread, covered with olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, and makes for a delicious way to kick off your Christmas celebrations. For your seafood bruschetta, try using sumptuous and buttery crab meat to top it off.
Oysters are one of the finest seafood snacks, meaning they make for a simple yet elegant Christmas appetizer. To make lemon and herb baked oysters, add a splash of fresh lemon juice and a breadcrumb topping loaded with butter and fresh herbs and dredge your oysters in it before baking to perfection.
A tartare is a great way for anyone to show off their chef skills this Christmas - the key is to find the best possible quality of fresh fish, such as Steelhead, and slicing into even and finely chopped small pieces. Then give it a lovely fruity zing with the addition of apple, and if you can source it, Yuzu juice, which is a Japanese citrus famed for its unique tart and sweet flavour. Cut through for added freshness and rustic colour by the addition of roughly chopped cucumber, for a truly scrumptious appetizer!
Scallops for Christmas
Cooked right, scallops are among the finest and most prized seafood ingredients out there, working well alongside a number of flavour combinations - provided you ensure the delicious and unrivaled texture and depth of flavour of the scallop is the star.
The key to making the most of any scallop dish is in the quality of the ingredient and the preparation. So with that in mind, here are our top tips for the best methods for preparing scallops.
The delicate texture and subtle sweetness of scallops is something that responds incredibly to quick, high-temperature, pan cooking. This results in the perfectly seared outsides locking in flavour, and the heat preserving that gorgeous texture. To pan-fry scallops, heat a tbsp of oil over high heat, and cook flat side down for 2-3 minutes before turning for a further 1-2 minutes. Baste with butter and serve immediately for a great appetizer.
Applying the same principles as frying, but with the smokiness of the grill, these are ideal for those laidback parties where you still want to serve something impressive for your guests. To grill scallops, first, ensure your skewers have been soaked for an hour so they don’t burn over the flame. Then, when cooking, make sure your grill has reached a high temperature, thread the scallops onto the skewers and brush with oil, before grilling for two to three minutes undisturbed per side. Who says the barbecue is only for summer?
Depending on how you look at it, ceviche is either a touch of culinary magic, or a slice of scientific perfection, but no matter how you slice it, it’s the perfect way for ‘cooking’ scallops whilst preserving their texture and flavour. A ceviche works by curing the fish in citrus, which in effect ‘cooks’ the fish without ever applying heat. We think lime or orange is the perfect choice for curing scallops, but feel free to choose your own favourite. To begin, chill the scallops beforehand in the fridge, which will help make them firm and easier to slice. Slice the scallops into thin rounds, chill for 10 minutes, and cure for 10-30 minutes with a mixture of sea salt and your chosen citrus.
Scallops are undoubtedly best fresh, but through a mixture of sustainability, seasonality, and availability, that can often simply not be a realistic possibility — thankfully with the right preparation, and the sourcing from a high-quality supplier like us, you can turn frozen scallops into something that no one will be able to tell from fresh!
The best way to keep scallops is by first thawing them in the refrigerator. To do this, place them on a plate or tray lined with a paper towel, before allowing them to defrost overnight, ensuring they thaw evenly and safely.
While in theory it is possible to do it safely, we would usually caution against thawing them in the microwave, as this can spoil the texture of the scallop.
Salmon for Christmas
There are common themes across all of the many different variations on Christmas food seen across the globe: seasonality, tradition, highlighting local customs and produce, and simple yet delicious food. As far as the west coast goes, nothing embodies that more than salmon. And while it is undoubtedly delightful served up as a fillet, there is something elegant and impressive about a whole salmon that simply can not be beaten.
So, bring this wonderful and delicious fish front and centre this Christmas by baking it alongside your choice of herbs, seasoning, and slices of your preferred citrus to garnish and flavour.
It’s not just about presentation, there’s a whole science to explain the wonder of a slow-cooked, perfectly roasted, whole salmon. By cooking salmon at a lower heat and over a longer period of time, the proteins inside the fish cool more slowly, ensuring it retains its moisture and oil, preserving flavour and texture.
Here at Oak Bay Seafood, we have everything you need for creating a seafood meal that will wow friends and family, and delight your palate. To find out more, and to see our wide array of fantastic products, browse all of our sustainably sourced and high-quality seafood. Happy Holidays!