On Christmas eve, many Americans — especially those of Italian heritage — celebrate with a dinner of fish and seafood. You may find it difficult to come up with a menu entirely of fish. So here are a few ideas that we hope inspire you to join the feast. One of the biggest challenges in putting this dinner together is that fish cooks so quickly and many of the dishes need to be prepared and cooked just prior to serving. A few strategies for managing the time: Prep anything you can ahead of time. This includes cleaning and prepping fish and shellfish, cutting vegetables and herbs, and measuring out ingredients. And be sure to utilize all of your kitchen and make dishes that require different cooking methods (baking, grilling, stovetop, etc.).
Begin with a few appetizers so your guests have something to snack on while you prepare the next course.
Consider appetizers like shrimp cocktail or smoked salmon which can be prepped earlier in the day and served cold or room-temperature.
Stuffed Clams can also be prepared earlier in the day and require only a quick broil before serving.
Crab Cakes are a great make-ahead dish. They can even be prepped and frozen up to a week in advance and pan-fried or baked just before serving.
The Pasta Course
Serving a pasta course separate from the main course allows you to focus on a few dishes at a time. While guests are enjoying appetizers:
Cook lobster raviolis. A good quality store-bought version is fine served with a Spicy Vodka Sauce.
Boil fettuccine or linguine to serve with a quick-to-make Shrimp Scampi. Or simply sauté shrimp and toss them into the cooked pasta with a store-bought pesto sauce.
The Main Course
Baked Salmon is a perfect option for serving a large crowd and can be popped in the oven at the end of the pasta course.
Scallop Gratin will definitely impress your guests. The scallops cook so quickly that they can be added to the oven when the salmon is nearly done.
A simple fried white fish like tilapia or sole is a good option for kids. The fillets can be breaded ahead of time and refrigerated, then pan-fried while the other dishes are baking in the oven.
Keep the side dishes to a minimum — good crusty bread and a tossed green salad is all you'll need to top off this feast.