December, possibly more than any other month on the calendar, is flush with fabulous food staples, those must-have meals that pop up, with panache and piquancy, on the same day each and every year.
That might mean tamales in the days ahead of Christmas, or posole on Christmas Eve, or pot roast on the first night of Hanukkah.
And as for the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes, a multi-hour, multi-course seafood spectacular that's sometimes called La Vigillia? It's as woven into Christmas Eve, for many households, as lights on the tree or a candle in the window.
Local news from across Southern California
If this is not the year you plan on cooking a sumptuous septet of seafood-oriented courses, but would still like to partake in this meaningful menu, you can ring up your go-to fish place, and see if they'll be doing it up, La Vigillia-wise, on Saturday, Dec. 24.
And while each course boasts the chef's on spin on the star of the plate, you can get a gourmet-esque sense of what goes into the Feast of the Seven Fishes by taking a peek at UNION's delectable line-up of dishes for its 2016 Christmas Eve dinner.
The prix fixe meal, which is priced at $140, opens with Chive Farinata with uni, lardo, pickled green garlic, and Urfa chile oil, while dish #7, the grand event's closer, is Red Vermillion Rockfish (golden raisins, pine nuts, cippolini onion, and a tomato-tastic Livronaise are the cuisine-haute complements).
Braised Octopus, Cured Mackerel, Cuttlefish Ink Lasagnette, Halibut Croquetas, and Olive Oil Poached Sturgeon comprise the other five courses in this once-a-year celebration.
If you book your seat for Christmas Eve at the Pasadena eatery, know also there is a wine-pairing menu for $40, too.
Of course you already know the history of The Feast of the Seven Fishes, if such a festa has long been a part of your family's traditional holiday table. It's a hallowed countdown to midnight, done via delicious foodstuffs, and the arrival of Jesus (and the official beginning of Christmas Day).
If you're cooking the whole amazing edible line-up in 2016, cheers. If you're eating somewhere else, at UNION or another trattoria or seafooderie that's announced a Feast of the Seven Fishes menu for Christmas Eve, happy festive, fish-amazing dining.