Feast of Seven Fishes – Stew!

You can honor the idea of the Feast of Seven Fishes in a one-dish meal that takes a fraction of the time, but delights with great flavor!

Time is short, and I’m sending you a rerun of a previous post. Happiest of Holidays to you all!


I prepared the full Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve just once with an Italian friend, and we actually had twelve fishes! This Italian classic meal was lots of fun preparing, everyone adored the food, but it was a great deal of work on a day when time tends to be quite full.

Our church has a beautiful candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 4:30 p.m., and I’m usually attempting to sing in the choir, so that means early arrival and we are not home until 6 or so. Too late to begin making seven dishes, and fish is not something that keeps well for hours if you try to cook beforehand. It just doesn’t work.

Make ahead – one bowl!

However, I came up with a one-bowl solution – a stew made with seven fishes that could be assembled in minutes the night of. I am really pleased with this one!

Many cultures have fishermen’s stews, usually from coastal areas using the catch of the day. This began as humble food, whether the ever-changing cioppino from San Francisco, bouillabaisse from Provence, or New England fish chowder, stews of this sort appear in any country that has a coast.

    Not quite bouillabaisse, not quite cioppino, but definitely fishermen’s stew

One of my favorites of this family is bouillabaisse – the luscious French stew that uses fresh seafood, the flavor combination of fennel, orange, and saffron, and lots of time.

I begin the day before by making my own stock. This means begging large fish carcasses from my fishmonger. They are generally happy to give them away or sell them for pennies. The best, if available, are red snapper bones, but any fish will work.

shrimp stock
If you don’t want to spend the day before creating a fish stock from scratch, it takes only minutes to transform your shrimp shells and a few vegetable trimmings into a scrumptious stock for this dish.          

The stock is simmered for several hours and chilled overnight, unstrained. This allows all possible flavor to be extracted. The next day, I strain it, clarify, and I’m ready for everything else the dish needs.

Nope, not today!

Ah, but we’re not doing any of that here, although I highly recommend placing the shells from the shrimp and vegetable trimmings from the recipe in a stock pot with a few cups of water to simmer for a half hour while you are doing everything else and use this as part of the stock. You will be amazed at the flavor, and it will add to the overall dish.


This quick seafood stew is reminiscent of both bouillabaisse and cioppino, some of the best favors from both, but it can be made in a fraction of the time with a few shortcuts. You can make the entire soup base the day before, find and prep the fish in the morning, and your time to prepare on Christmas Eve will be mere minutes!

Because you gently poach the fish off the heat, you will not overcook it. This is not a cheap meal; it is definitely a special splurge for a holiday. But this recipe makes enough to serve 8 to 10 depending on appetite, and you can freely substitute, add and subtract what you find that is fresh and on sale, just include either mussels or clams, and shrimp to keep the flavors interesting. There is nothing wrong with making a feast of the four fishes! You can also add an additional can of tomatoes to stretch it a bit further.

P.S. This is both low-carb and gluten free, at least until the add the crusty bread to sop up the juices.

Feast of the Seven Fishes Stew

In a soup pot heat:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil


  • 2 medium or 3 small leeks, white and light green, diced
  • 1 bulb fennel, diced
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed

Sauté until the vegetables are translucent, but don’t let them color. (if you like, save the trimmings from these for the stock pot) Make a little space in the center of the bottom of the pot and add:

  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 or 4 anchovy filets, chopped (yes, one of the seven)

Let this cook for a couple of minutes, then add:

  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced

Cook for another minute and add:

  • 1 cup of red wine that you would like to drink.

Stir this for a few minutes to deglaze the pan and start cooking off the alcohol. Then add:

  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Zest of one small orange
  • 6 Cups of fish or shrimp stock or stock and water
  • 1 large pinch of saffron

Bring this all to a boil, reduce heat immediately, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

This is the soup base, and you can make this the day before and refrigerate.

When you are ready to prepare the meal, bring the soup base up to a steamy simmer (heated to just below the boil with a few bubbles around the edge) while you prepare your seafood. You can do this prep earlier in the day so that when it is time to cook it will take only a few minutes to put everything together.

Rinse and pick over:

  • 8 ounces crab, preferably Maine or Canadian

Scrub, and check that these are tightly closed:

  • 1 pound of New England clams
  • 1 pound of northern mussels, any beards removed

Peel and devein:

  • 1 pound of wild 16-20 shrimp

Cut into bite-sized pieces:

  • 1 pound of saltwater fish (cod, haddock, salmon, etc.)
  • 1 pound bay or sea scallops

Once the stock is at a nice hot simmer, add the crabmeat and the clams. Cover and let cook for five or six minutes and check. They will probably need a couple more minutes.  Once the clams just start to open up, add the mussels, cover and cook another five minutes or so. The shellfish will always tell you when they are about ready by beginning to open. Add the shrimp, scallops, and fish.

Stir everything together, gently, cover, cook for a minute or so, just until you see the mussels start to pop open, then remove from the heat and let sit for 15-20 minutes, tightly covered, giving you time to herd everyone to the table and replenish drinks. Don’t lift up the lid during this time if you want everything perfectly poached.

Discard the bay leaves and any shellfish that did not open.

When plating, I make sure there are a few mussels and clams in each bowl, and a visible shrimp or two. Then top with a little fresh parsley to pretty it up. Serve with a crusty baguette to sop up the juice, and a little simply dressed salad on the side.

Kitchen notes on ingredients:   

Substitutions: Clams are sometimes elusive in the winter on the day you want them, so if they are absent, mussels will work fine. You can also add a can of whole baby clams and its juice to the pot if fresh are not available and you want clam presence.

Tomato paste in a tube. Unless you need a lot for a recipe, tomato paste in a tube is the way to go. It is a bit more expensive, but it keeps for well over a month and you end up with absolutely no waste!

Anchovies in a jar. Seldom does a recipe require a whole tin of anchovies. They are best bought in a jar packed in olive oil. Again, you use only what you need and have no waste.

Stock from your fish monger. Most fish shops make their own fish stock and have it in their freezer section! This is a wonderful ingredient, and great in a pinch. Even if frozen, you can thaw this quickly in your pan. Check for this when purchasing your fish, it is always superior to what you would get in the supermarket, and will save you time as well.

Fish Stew

We wish you all a warm and wonderful holiday season of love and light!

One of my favorite holiday offerings:

The Moment of Magic

~ Victoria E. Safford

Now is the moment of magic,

when the whole, round earth turns again toward the sun,

and here’s a blessing:

the days will be longer and brighter now,

even before the winter settles in to chill us.

Now is the moment of magic,

when people beaten down and broken,

with nothing left but misery and candles and their own clear voices,

kindle tiny lights and whisper secret music,

and here’s a blessing:

the dark universe is suddenly illuminated by the lights of the menorah,

suddenly ablaze with the lights of the kinara,

and the whole world is glad and loud with winter singing.

Now is the moment of magic,

when an eastern star beckons the ignorant toward an unknown goal,

and here’s a blessing:

they find nothing in the end but an ordinary baby,

born at midnight, born in poverty, and the baby’s cry, like bells ringing,

makes people wonder as they wander through their lives,

what human love might really look like,

sound like,

feel like.

Now is the moment of magic,

and here’s a blessing:

we already possess all the gifts we need;

we’ve already received our presents:

ears to hear music,

eyes to behold lights,

hands to build true peace on earth

and to hold each other tight in love.

Each Night A Child in Born is a Holy Night

© Copyright 2018 – or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen.

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Dashet says:

    This looks delicious!

  2. kathryn says:

    Dorothy not only looks delicious (and impressive), I am certain that it tastes wonderful. Lovely recipe!

  3. Thank you Kathryn. It is one of our favorites because our entire family loves seafood, and you can make this with whatever is available at the fish shop on any given day.

  4. nancyc says:

    What a nice tradition to have this at Christmastime! And stew is always a welcoming dish in wintry weather! 🙂

    1. Any time of year, it’s my favorite Nancy, so why not make it extra special at the holiday!

  5. terrie gura says:

    Dorothy! I just got home from picking up cod, clams, mussels and shrimp and look what you dropped in my inbox while I was away! We are making cioppino for Christmas Day dinner. Amazing timing and (as always) I gleaned a little extra from your experience. It hadn’t even occurred to me to include anchovies!!! I have some packed in chili oil and they will be perfect. 💕

    1. Sounds absolutely wonderful Terrie! Can I pop over?
      I am happy with ANY fish stew, and the anchovies packed in chili oil sound perfect!!!!!!

  6. terrie gura says:

    Always room for you at our table! 😁🍽️

    1. Thank you my friend! Here too, of course!

  7. CarolCooks2 says:

    I love a fish stew and this sounds delicious, Dorothy especially given the cold weather 🙂 Happy Christmas xx

    1. Happy Christmas to you too Carol!

  8. Buon natale, D! May blessings fill your home and heart this Christmas, cara amica! 🕊️

    1. Joyeux Noel chere amie! May your holiday be filled with love and laughter, and lots of delicious food!

  9. I like your one-bowl solution for the feast of the seven fishes. Your recipe sounds terrific.

    1. Thank you Kare! We enjoy this one a lot.

  10. This is magic! 😋😋 Happy holidays! 🎄🎁💝

    1. Hope you had a lovely day!

  11. Jenna says:

    Wonderful idea! I hope your holidays have been very Merry!

    1. Thank you Jenna! And Happy New Year to you and yours!

  12. That stew looks fantastic Dorothy!

    1. Thanks! It sure was delicious!

  13. Nancy says:

    What a lovely recipe. Looks sooooooo good!

    1. Thank you Nancy! I love this one too, so flavorful and it certainly hits all the festive notes.

  14. You’re killing me. This looks delicious. I’m moving on to diet blogs. Hugs, C

    1. Thanks Cheryl! I’m feeling the need for lighter just about now too!

  15. Hi Dorothy, this is a wonderful looking recipe. My mom loves fish so I will make this for her for an occasion. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. Thanks Robbie! Fish lovers find this dish really enjoyable!

  16. Forestwood says:

    I would be keen for this anytime – of course it is seafood. I hadn’t thought to make my own fish stock from the shells of prawns and vege scraps. Great idea. I will try that. So then, I assume vege stock be made just from the peel of veges?

    1. Just toss the peels and ends of onion, celery, mushroom, and carrot scraps, any other vegetable trimmings, and if you feel you don’t have enough, just toss in an extra small onion chopped up. Sometimes I just toss them in a pot and add water, other times I give a quick sauté to get some color in the pan before I add water. I don’t put potato peels in or the broth will taste like dirt!
      Shrimp stock is the easiest. Just toss the shells in some water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s amazing how much flavor is extracted from the shells. There’s alway some stashed in my freezer ready to make rice or sauces.

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