The Seven Fish Dishes is a treasured memory for another year. We had friends Jeff & Renee, Daughters #1 and #2 and Daughter's partner Keith...and a threatening snowstorm, which fortunately held off until the next afternoon.
So what worked -- and what didn't?
*The bagna cauda was good -- but only when it was fresh. Leftovers were too garlic-y and fish-y. (Do Mexicans have to throw out the unused part, too?)
*The caviar and blini were a surprise success. The blinis' wholegrain nuttiness were a perfect complement to the salty caviar -- even to people at the table who announced, "I don't LIKE caviar."
Done this way...they did. (I made up the extra batter as buckwheat cakes the next morning, with maple syrup. Also a hit.)
*The crab cakes got overcooked. (And they're dry that way. Trust me.)
*Barely cooking -- or undercooking -- is best. A quick saute, if the shrimp was still too pink, was all that was needed. Undercooked, the salmon was moist and full-flavored; keeping it warm completed the cooking process. But:
*Nobody wanted the salmon. They were all too full. (The leftovers got demolished the next afternoon. Turns out eating salmon with your fingers out of the refrigerator while standing around is a great pleasure.)
*The 'cleansers' and side dishes were important. A plain green salad. A mix of strawberries and blueberries, blended into a sort-of-smoothie. White rice, served smoking hot, to soak up the scampi juices. A mandarin orange, peeled and the segments eaten as needed.These give your mouth a 'refresher' break in between courses.
*We needed something fizzy. The wine was nice -- and the coffee was critical. But a champagne would have been lighter, and added to the 'cleanser' effect.
*Nothing heavy for dessert! A slice of British Christmas cake, a chocolate or two...and the coffee. That made for a nice finish, and a good foundation for a few hours of interesting talk afterward.
The only problem: doing the Seven Fish Dishes, and singing/playing for two services straight on Christmas Eve, really guts you out. Next year, we may do it on Christmas Day, instead. We -- and the kids too, it turns out -- were so beat that everyone went to bed soon after. The tree didn't even get decorated until Christmas Day...and the presents? Fortunately, we'd wrapped those earlier.
Now it's time to rest up, enjoy the time off...and plan for the next celebration.