Feast of Seven Fishes

Ryan Prewitt, the chef of the celebrated Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans, stands up for the fishes. Universally celebrated for his masterful preparations of seafood, the chef will readily admit the relationship makes for odd bedfellows, but it works well when put into practice. Especially for a holiday feast.
Prewitt was honored to receive the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in May 2014|!!| the same year Pêche earned the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. All of this happened his first year in business.

A soft breeze blew in through open doors overlooking the waterfront as the Pêche restaurant family gathered to celebrate the season with a Feast of Seven Fishes, part of the Italian-American holiday celebration. Typically consumed on Christmas Eve, which is a vigil or fasting day, the abundance of seafood in the meal reflects the observance of abstaining from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself. This seems not much of a sacrifice and, while not all members of the assembled group identify as either Christian or Italian, they were willing to make this “sacrifice” to share friendship and their passions for the spectacular Gulf seafood for which Pêche in New Orleans is known.

Chef Ryan Prewitt likes to share his extended family’s waterfront weekend home with his Pêche family from time to time. On this day it was downright hot outside, leaving Prewitt feeling perfectly comfortable to prepare a winter holiday meal clad in his preferred attire — barefoot, cutoff shorts, a loose open-fronted shirt and a mischievous smile.

Puck Hopkins, the restaurant’s general manager and wine director, kept everyone’s glasses full of Peyrassol 2017, the lightest of rosés from Côtes de Provence, as members of the group worked in unison to ready for the meal they would share on the deep screen porch surrounding the elevated home.

A table was set with regional pottery and serveware from Potsalot on Magazine Street in New Orleans and pieces of creamy white dinnerware from Beatriz Ball, another Louisiana designer.


1

Crab Claws with Pepper Vinegar & Mint

This recipe will produce more pickled peppers than you need for the crab claws, but they keep in the refrigerator and are good on just about everything.

1. PEPPER VINEGAR

Slice ½ pound banana peppers (or other mild to medium heat chili pepper) into rounds, removing as many seeds as possible (if some get into the pickle, it’s no problem). Place chilies in a heat-proof container.

2. Bring 2 cups cider vinegar, ½ cup sugar and 2 teaspoons kosher salt to a rolling boil. Pour over the peppers, stirring them to make sure most are submerged.

3. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. You can use the pickles immediately, but the mixture gets better after a few days.  

4. CRAB CLAWS

Toss 1 pound blue Gulf crab claws (cracked) with ¾ cup pepper vinegar, ¼ cup peppers (from the pepper vinegar), ¼ cup red onion (minced), and 40 fresh mint leaves (roughly torn).

5. TO SERVE

Spoon claws into 4 chilled shallow bowls. Top with an equal amounts of ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (a spiced oil works nicely), 2 teaspoons Korean chili flake (or other mild chili flake) and 2 teaspoons sea salt.

Serves 4


2

Smoked Tuna Dip

1. Break 1 pound smoked tuna into small pieces. Add fish and ½ large onion (finely diced), 1 celery stalk (minced), 2 large scallions (thinly sliced), 1 jalapeno (stemmed, seeded and diced), ½ cup mayonnaise, ½ cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons Creole mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon paprika, zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon hot sauce to a mixing bowl, taste and adjust seasonings (adding more lemon, hot sauce, or salt and pepper as desired). 

2. Allow to sit, refrigerated, at least 4 hours or overnight to allow flavors to marry. 

3. Serve with saltine crackers.

Makes about 5 cups

WINE

PRODUCER
Domaine André & Mireille Tissot
WINE NAME
Crémant du Jura, Extra Brut rosé
VARIETALS
Chardonnay,  Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau
ORIGIN
France  
Crisp and elegant with green apples, perfect acidity and persistent bubbles. A sophisticated subtlety with stimulating fresh citrus notes and a lovely length.

3

Crab Salad with Pickled Peppers and Citrus

1. CHILI MAYONNAISE  Combine 2 tablespoons pickled chilies, chopped (see crab claw recipe), ¼ cup chili pickling liquid and ¾ cup mayonnaise. The mixture should be thick with a pleasant vinegar flavor.

2. MIXED CITRUS JUICE Mix 1 cucumber (juiced, about 2 cups), ¼ bunch celery (juiced), 1 small jalapeno (juiced), 4 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons salt and ¼ cup sugar together. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

3. CRAB SALAD Gently mix 1 pound of jumbo lump crab meat (picked over for shells) with ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh chives and 1 cup chili mayonnaise. Plate in the center of a large bowl.

4. Toss 2 satsumas (peeled and cut into supremes with all of the seeds and pith removed), ½ cup fresh chervil leaves,½ cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons) and Kosher salt (to taste).

5. TO SERVE Pour mixed fresh citrus juice around the crab meat and top with the satsuma salad. Serve with grilled bread (such as baguette or ciabatta).

Serves 4

WINE

PRODUCER
Do Ferreiro
WINE NAME
Albariño
VARIETALS
Albariño
ORIGIN
Spain  
Complex aromas of exotic fruits with wet earth/herbal tones. The palate is textured with excellent acidity.

Most of the finfish that hit the sought-after tables at Pêche were line-caught by one of the independent fishermen with whom Prewitt has cultivated close relationships. you can find fish collars at Asian-market fish counters, But your local supermarket may have collars if they cut the fish themselves.

4

Fish Collar Soup with Pickled Greens and Sweet Potato

1. BROTH Combine 1 quart water, ½ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup sherry vinegar, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¾ cup sugar, 4 teaspoons sea salt, 1 bay leaf, ½ cup sliced garlic cloves, 1½ cups julienned onion (about 1 large onion), ¼ cup arbol chilies, ¼ cup dried criolla sella chilies (or other spicy dried chili) and ¼ cup fresh chilies such as jalapeno or serrano (thinly sliced) and cooked for about 30 minutes to combine flavors.

2. Drop 1 bunch collard greens (cleaned thoroughly, stemmed and cut into 1-inch squares) into boiling broth, stir well to submerge. Cook over low heat until soft, about 30 minutes. If you can store overnight, or even for a few days, the flavors will develop more.

3. SWEET POTATOES Using a vegetable spiralizer, shave 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (peeled) into long, thin ribbons. Deep fry until crispy. Remove from vegetable oil before they turn too dark. Set aside to drain on paper towels

4. FISH COLLARS Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot. Heat on high until shimmering. Season 6 small fish collars or 2-3 larger ones (from snapper, grouper, cobia, etc.) with salt and pepper to taste. Add to pot and cook, turning as necessary, until well browned. Alternatively, you can cook the collars in a smoker or on a grill until cooked though

5. TO SERVE Combine collars with 2 quarts chicken stock or water and enough water or stock to fully submerged. Cook until the meat from collars pulls easily from the bone. Remove collars and pick off all of the meat. Return meat to the pot. Stir in 4 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and adjust the seasonings. Serve soup in individual bowls topped with fried sweet potato.

Serves 6

WINE

PRODUCER
Didier Lemorton
WINE NAME
“Sparkling Perry” Poiré Cider
VARIETALS
Poiré de Blanc 
ORIGIN
France  
Naturally made, the bottles may have a little sediment in them, an evident sign of their authenticity. At Lemorton, only the variety Poiré de Blanc (white pear) is used for the poiré, a pear known for its forwardly fruity aromatics and balance of tannin and acid.

Chef Prewitt likes to use Trinidad and red shishito chilies for this recipe.

5

Baked Shrimp with Arbequina Olive Oil + Chilies

1. Preheat an oven to 475 F. A wood-burning oven would be a plus. Place 2 large cast iron pans, 12-14 inches each, in the oven for 30 minutes while the oven heats up.
2. Peel 20 large, fresh U-10 Gulf shrimp (or the largest, freshest you can find, plan on five large shrimp per person), removing the shells and tails, but leaving the heads on.
3. Toss shrimp with ½ cup Arbequina extra virgin olive oil, 20 mixed small chilies (some medium heat, some mild) and 10 cloves garlic (sliced) in a large bowl. Season with the 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon freshly dried oregano. Let sit at room temperature until the oven is hot.
4. Carefully remove cast iron pans from oven and pour an even amount of shrimp and peppers in each one, making sure they are evenly spaced on the bottom of the pan. It is ok if all of the chilies do not touch the bottom
5. Bake until the shrimp are pink and firm, about 4-5 minutes. Adjust the cooking time depending on the size of your shrimp.
6. Add 2 lemons (cut into rounds with the seeds removed) and squeeze 1 whole lemon over the shrimp. Drizzle with more olive oil if needed.

Serves 4

WINE
PRODUCER
Domaine de l’Horizon
WINE NAME
L’Esprit de l’Horizon Blanc
VARIETALS
Macabeu, Muscat
ORIGIN
France  
At 12% alcohol, this wine is rich in minerality. Acidic with notes of stones, powdered lime and sweet citrus this wine is said to linger on the tongue.

6

Spaghetti with Clams & Jalapeno

1. Cook 1 pound spaghetti noodles (fresh or dried) according to package directions or your own recipe, drain and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

2. Heat a large, heavy pot with a lid over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ pound smoked ham or bacon (medium dice). Cook until browned, about 6 minutes.

3. Add 1 jalapeno (thinly sliced) and 2 shallots (minced). Cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

4. Add 4 pounds littleneck clams (well rinsed) and toss to coat. Add 1 cup white wine and 1 cup quality chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the clams start to open.

5. As clams pop open, remove to a bowl. Cover clams with a towel to keep warm. If some of the clams are stubborn, go ahead and remove them, then pry them open with an oyster knife or a butter knife.

6. Reduce the liquid in the pot until you have about 2 cups. Add 1 teaspoon black pepper, salt (if needed) and 2 sticks unsalted butter. When the butter is incorporated into the sauce, add noodles and bring back to a boil.

7. Toss in 1 cup torn basil leaves (large pieces), ½ cup green onions (thinly sliced), ½ cup fresh flat Italian parsley leaves and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Plate the noodles, then surround them with the clams.

Serves 4

WINE
PRODUCER
Fattorie Romeo del Castello
WINE NAME
Etna Rosso “Allegracore”
VARIETALS
Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Capuccio
REGION
Italy  
It smells of rose petals and blood orange, with a slight ashy side (think carrots roasted over coals) that’s a mark of the nerello mascalese grape.

7

Gulf Fish on the Half Shell with Lemon,Garlic Butter & Bitter Greens

1. LEMON GARLIC BUTTER Combine 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened), 6 cloves garlic (minced), 4 lemons and their zest (finely minced) and ½ teaspoon black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

2. FISH Heat grill to about 450 F.

3. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on 1 four-pound or 2 two-pound, fillets of Gulf fish with the skin and scales on. Season with 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon cayenne and Red Korean chili flakes.

4. Slather fish with half of the lemon garlic butter.

5. Place fish, skin side down, on covered grill. Cook until the edges flake easily with a fork, about 12-15 minutes for small fish halves and 20-25 minutes for a large fish half.

NB: Watch for flare ups as butter melts. It will be necessary to move the fish around the grill periodically.

6. Remove fish from grill and smear it with remaining garlic butter.

7. SALAD Combine 1 head frisée (cleaned of green leaves and torn into small segments), 1 head radicchio (torn into leaves and julienned) and 1 head sturdy spinach with thick, dark leaves, preferably Bloomsdale (leaves only, torn into large pieces) in a large salad bowl.

8. Place 1 stick unsalted butter into a heavy skillet and cook over low heat until browned and smells nutty, about 7 minutes. Add 1 small jalapeno (seeds removed, thinly sliced), 1 shallot (minced) and 5 cloves garlic (thinly sliced). Saute for about 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then pour over greens and toss.

9. TO SERVE Plate the fish, pouring any garlic butter that may have run off over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the salad on top of the fish and serve. 

Serves 4

WINE
PRODUCER
Sylvain Morey
WINE NAME
Santenay “Grand Clos Rousseau”
VARIETALS
Pinot Noir
REGION
France  
 Notes of fresh red fruits mingle with the aromas of cinnamon and licorice. The palate is round and has well integrated woody flavors. The finish is long and stretches into notes of raspberry and gooseberry. Santenay is a designation whose vineyard is made up of more than 90% Pinot Noir.

Key lime pie, while hardly a typical holiday dessert works with the light, fresh nature of Prewitt’s menu. Full disclosure: It came from La Boulangerie, a sister property in the Link Restaurant Group of which Pêche is a cornerstone. This is good news for holiday host and hostesses. If James Beard Award Winning Ryan Prewitt can order up a pie from a bakery and serve it with pride so can you. Just place an order and scratch that pie right off of the to-do list.

8

Key Lime Pie with Buttermilk Chantilly

1. CRUST Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix 6 tablespoons butter (melted and cooled), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 11 ounces graham cracker crumbs together.

2. Spray a pie pan with non-stick spray and press the mixture into the pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Meanwhile, reduce oven to 325 F.

3. KEY LIME FILLING Combine 2 cups sweetened condensed milk, ²⁄₃ cup key lime juice and 8 eggs yolks thoroughly. Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake until center is set, about 40 minutes. Cool completely, then refrigerate.

4. BUTTERMILK CHANTILLY Place 1 cup whipping cream, ½ cup unsweetened crème fraiche, ¼ cup sugar, 1 vanilla bean (scraped) and ¼ cup buttermilk in a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, and whip until stiff peaks form. Pipe or dollop the cream atop the pie. Serve at once.

Serves 8

WINE
PRODUCER
Jorge Ordonez
WINE NAME
Selección Especial #1
VARIETALS
Muscat Alexandria
ORIGIN
Spain
Pale gold. Intense, with fresh notes of orange and of exotic spices, floral and musky. Powerful on the palate, embracing and warm, with a punch of minerality.

 

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