For many, the month of December is a time for holiday traditions. I started one several years ago on Christmas Eve that's a variation of the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. My inspiration comes not only from Italy, but from the cuisines of India, Japan, France and everyplace in between. The wines I pair with each course also hail from all around the world, with more importance placed on body, flavor and how they complement the food than on where they come from. One thing that remains the same every year is the homemade Triple Chocolate Pudding as the finale, a real crowd pleaser with its smooth texture and strong chocolaty flavor. Get the recipe by clicking here.
Below are three of the fish dishes (and their wine pairings) from The Wine Chef's Christmas Eve 2017.
SESAME CRUSTED TUNA WITH WASABI MAYONNAISE
I served a red Portuguese wine called Herdade do Rocim 2014 Amphora with this dish. It's made from grapes you may never have heard of: Aragonez, Trincadeira, Moreto, Tinta Grossa. It's produced by following a traditional ancient method of making wine in pots of clay (amphora). A medium-bodied red wine with many layers of flavor and lots of minerality, it pairs well with heartier fish, like this tuna dish as well as chicken, pork and tomato-based soups. Read more about this Amphora wine at Grape Collective's online wine magazine.
1 & 1/4 pounds sushi-grade tuna steaks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 & 1/2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1) Make the wasabi mayonnaise by stirring all ingredients together in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved.
2) Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat in large skillet. Season the tuna with salt and pepper and brush with vegetable oil. Sprinkle one side of each piece with sesame seeds, pressing down to help adhere them to the fish.
3) When oil is very hot and shimmering add tuna sesame seed side down. Cook for one to two minutes until seared and lightly browned. Turn fish over and sear on the other side for about a minute or two. The fish should still be rare in the middle (or you can cook if all the way through if you prefer).
4) Place fish on plate with a dollop of wasabi mayonnaise on the side and serve.
OLIVE-OIL-POACHED SQUID WITH ROASTED LEEKS
I discovered this recipe back in February of 2014 in New York Magazine but didn't get around to trying it until this Christmas Eve and it was a big hit. The squid becomes extremely tender from its time poaching in the olive oil and the oil becomes infused with the flavor of the sea and the lemon while the crispy caramelized leeks (I sliced the leeks about 1/4" thick after trimming and cleaning them) add another, deep dimension of flavor.
I paired this wine with an Olivier Leflaive 2011 white Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru. This white wine from Burgundy (100% Chardonnay) is a powerful one with concentrated fruit and acidity and was a great match to the robust earthy flavors found in the dish.
CHRIS FISCHER'S OLIVE-OIL-POACHED SQUID WITH ROASTED LEEKS
1 pound cleaned squid
2 cups plus 2 tbs. mild extra-virgin olive oil
Dried chile flakes
Salt and pepper
4 baby leeks, trimmed and cleaned
2 cups picked parsley leaves
1) Preheat oven to 375. Rinse the squid under cold water. Place in a Dutch oven,
2) Cover with 2 cups of olive oil, add half the lemon (reserving the other half for juice) and a pinch of chile flakes, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover tightly, and poach the squid in the oven until fork-tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool with the lid on for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the leeks in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place leeks in a single layer on a sheet tray, and roast until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 20 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the squid to a mixing bowl, and combine with the makings of a dressing: 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a small pinch of chile flakes. Toss well, check seasoning, then add the parsley, tossing again to coat evenly.
3) Arrange the squid on 4 plates, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the leeks. Serves 4.
HOISIN SHRIMP LETTUCE WRAPS
This quick and easy recipe from the food blog The Wholesome Dish was a big hit with my family and friends. I paired this dish with an off-dry Riesling produced in the Finger Lakes by one of my favorite New York State wineries, Dr Konstantin Frank. Riesling wines are known to be a wonderful match to Asian-flavored dishes and this slightly sweet, juicy wine with crisp acidity gracefully complemented the spicy and sweet flavors of the dish.
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 oz.) can sliced water chestnuts
4 green onions
1 pound raw, peeled, deveined shrimp (any size/count will work)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
Optional: sliced green onion and sesame seeds for serving
1) In a small bowl, add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and garlic. Whisk until well combined.
2) Drain and coarsely chop the water chestnuts. Slice the green onion. Add the water chestnuts and onion to the sauce. Stir to combine. Set aside.
3) Coarsely chop the shrimp into ½ to ¾ inch chunks.
4) Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook 2 minutes, stirring often.
5) Add the sauce to the skillet. Stir well. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove the skillet from the heat. Let the shrimp rest in the sauce for 2 minutes.
6) Serve by spooning 2-3 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf. Optional: Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion.