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To give your Feast of the Seven Fishes a luxurious, French-inspired touch this year, chef Daniel Boulud, an American Express Global Dining Collection chef who runs no fewer than seven restaurants, shared his approach to the iconic fish and seafood feast with Departures. Originally the renowned chef, perhaps best known for his twice Michelin-starred NYC restaurant DANIEL, was looking forward to preparing an elaborate Feast of the Seven Fishes in Palm Beach, Florida this month. “Being from France, I have never prepared the Feast of the Seven Fishes at home, but was actually planning to join my friend Marcello Fiorentino of La Sirena Ristorante in West Palm Beach to celebrate Christmas Italian style,” said Boulud.
But with COVID-19 cases on the rise, Boulud will be staying a bit closer to home this year and he’s sharing his festive Feast of the Seven Fishes menu with us—plus, an exclusive recipe for his coveted Black Tie Sea Scallops. To start with, “Being well-prepared and ready is key,” said Boulud. “When entertaining for any special celebration, do not prepare things that are out of your comfort zone. As a chef, I will attempt the impossible, but you can always learn from any Seven Fish feast and simplify it or take it up a notch.”
With that insight in mind, we’re ready to turn to the perfect Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. Here, Boulud offers a seven-course menu that’s sure to add a Michelin-starred flair to your Christmas Eve dinner.
“Oysters to start, accompanied by Champagne and caviar; a crudo of fluke with beets and horseradish; a risotto with uni and lemon; grilled octopus with pesto and eggplant; my classic Sea Scallops Black Tie [recipe below]; cod à la Basquaise; and to finish, black sea bass with crispy potato, leek, and red wine sauce. Each course would be paired with lots of wines from Alsace, and Burgundy to Rhône, and of course, from Piedmont and Tuscany.”
To delve further into the reasoning behind these culinary choices, Boulud talked us through the journey your palette should take over the seven courses of fish and seafood—a journey which he characterizes as “a crescendo.”
“It should always be tasty, but keep it light to start,” said Boulud. “The celebration should be a crescendo of flavor, texture, and temperature. The wine pairing [is] part of the crescendo, too. From light, crisp, and fresh, to rustic, more powerful, and full-bodied wines.”
As the Feast of the Seven Fishes crescendo builds so, too, do the dynamic flavors Boulud described, especially as we glide up the scale from bright, citrus flavors accompanying his suggested risotto with uni to more savory and umami-rich dishes like grilled octopus with pesto and truffle-flanked scallops. From the caviar and the crudo, to the climatic dishes at the top of the crescendo—like a Basque-inspired cod to draw in the Mediterranean flavors, Boulud advised, “Each course should be a few bites, but it is okay to explore with contrast and hearty flavors.”
With this expertly crafted menu, and the recipe for Boulud’s classique scallop preparation, you’re almost ready to attempt your own French and Mediterranean-inspired Feast of the Seven Fishes à la Daniel Boulud. But first, follow Boulud’s sourcing recommendations when scouting the best fish and seafood. His go-tos in New York City are Pierless, Browne Trading Company, and F. Rozzo & Sons.
“My Feast of the Seven Fishes would include fish and shellfish from the Portland, Maine, and New York coasts,” said Boulud.
Equipped with the finest Northeastern seafood from Portland and New York, and a revelatory seven-course fish feast, here’s the must-have Christmas Eve recipe:
Daniel Boulud’s Main Sea Scallops in Black Tie Recipe
3 black truffles, fresh or canned, golf ball size, juice reserved
10 jumbo Maine sea scallops, very fresh and firm, live
8 ounces large spinach leaves, stems discarded, leaves thoroughly washed
1 pound puff pastry
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
¼ cup dry vermouth
1 teaspoon shallots, chopped
½ cup chicken jus
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
Slice each truffle into 14 thin slices using a mandoline or knife (you will need 4 slices of truffle per scallop). Save any juice, chop the trimmings and set both aside for the sauce.
Cut each scallop horizontally into 4 slices. Reconstruct each scallop by alternating the 4 slices of scallop with 4 slices of truffle. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until needed.
Place the spinach above a pot of boiling water inside a steamer, or colander, for 1-2 minutes to soften the leaves. Cool the leaves under cold running water, and drain. Carefully spread each spinach leaf open on a kitchen towel and pat dry with a second towel.
Place a layered scallop in the center of a large spinach leaf and wrap the leaf tightly around the scallop. If the scallop is not totally enclosed in the spinach leaf, use an extra leaf to seal the scallop in. Repeat the same process for each layered scallop and refrigerate until needed.
On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry until it is 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 18 disks with a 1½ inch round cookie cutter, or a shot glass. Next, cut out 10 rectangles of puff pastry at 5 x 2½ inches. Chill the pastry on a floured baking sheet for 15 minutes in the fridge.
Take one rectangle of puff pastry and brush some egg wash on one tip of it, place one spinach-wrapped scallop on the opposite tip. Carefully roll the scallop up inside the pastry until it seals to itself. Fold the excess pastry tightly over the top and bottom of the scallop. Brush egg wash on one side of 2 pastry disks and stick them, brushed side down, on the top and bottom of the scallop. Press the seams well to seal and repeat the process.
Place the wrapped scallops on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush each pastry lightly with the remaining egg wash. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bake the wrapped scallops for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size, until golden.
Prepare the sauce while the scallops are baking. Reduce the vermouth with the chopped shallots in a small saucepan over high heat until you are left with 1 teaspoon. Add the reserved truffle juice and chicken jus and reduce it to a ¼ cup. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and strain. Finish with chopped truffle and salt and pepper.
Split the Scallops in half from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Arrange 2 halves on each warmed dinner plate. Serve immediately, with the sauce on the side.
Sourcing Sea Scallops and Chicken Jus:
Maine sea scallops are in bountiful supply from fall to spring. We recommend sourcing live sea scallops from Browne Trading Company. If you can’t find them alive, be sure to choose firm, ivory-colored scallops, about 1½ inches in diameter. We recommend sourcing chicken jus from D’Artagnan.