New Twists on the Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes may be an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition, but it's so good that we think everyone should celebrate it. The feast, commemorating the wait for the midnight birth of Baby Jesus, usually consists of seven (or eight or nine) different seafood courses.

Typically, these include baccalà (salted cod), fried smelts or sardines, stuffed calamari, and some other combination of oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops.

While we love the traditional Italian preparations, we thought it'd be fun to turn a few on their head. From international takes to dishes with some H-town flair, here are Seven New Dishes for Your Feast of The Seven Fishes:

Instead of Baked Salt Cod: Portuguese Baccalà Fritters

Traditionally, baccalà is served as the first course of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We think these fritters make the perfect first bite.

Stuffed with salt cod and mashed potatoes, these breaded and fried croquettes are crisp on the outside and creamy and decadent on the inside. Serve them with lemon, garlic aioli and/or tomato sauce. Get the recipe here.

Instead of Stuffed Calamari: Squid-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

These breadcrumb-calamari-and-Serrano-stuffed piquillos are another great appetizer. If you're avoiding meat for the holiday, just remove the ham; otherwise, go all in on this recipe.

Serve the peppers in a light and fresh marinade of olive oil, garlic, parsley and tomatoes, and be sure to use any leftover bread for sopping up the juices.

Instead of Shrimp Risotto: Crawfish Mac and Cheese

We love the idea of mimicking the creamy rice dish with a crawfish-loaded, gooey and cheesy macaroni and cheese. This version uses Parmigiano-Reggiano, white cheddar, Gruyère, Fontina and, of course, a pound of crawfish tails.

Serve it family-style topped with chopped fresh parsley.

Instead of Seafood Salad: Ceviche

Add a little Mexican flair to the classic Italian seafood salad with a lime-and-chile-dressed ceviche. The best part is that the salad works with so many types of seafood.

Try this recipe, with tilapia, chopped tomato and cucumber; this Peruvian variety, made with sweet potatoes, corn and flounder; or this classic scallop ceviche, loaded with bay scallops and avocado.

Instead of Baked Clams: Miso Clam Chowder

Littleneck clams are taken to a new level in this thick and creamy miso-infused clam broth. The salty, earthy and slightly sweet flavor of the miso balances perfectly with the buttery and rich chowder. The result is decadence in a bowl.

Get the recipe here.

Instead of Marinated Anchovies: Boquerón (White Anchovy) Crostini

Creamy, briny and rich, this hard-boiled-egg-and-white-anchovy-topped crostini is the absolute perfect bite.

To make it, slice a loaf of crusty Italian bread, brush with olive oil and grill until the bread is toasted and charred in spots.

Then spread the tops of the bread with a mixture of mayonnaise, chopped fresh parsley, Dijon and paprika, and top with sliced hard-boiled egg and fresh white anchovy filets.

Instead of Cioppino: Seafood Gumbo

Bring this Italian seafood stew to the South with a spicy and bold seafood gumbo. Just like a cioppino, gumbo can be filled with any variety of fish and shellfish. Try this recipe, made with shrimp and crab; or this loaded version that tacks on white fish and oysters, as well.

Merry Christmas Eve, indeed!

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