Planning where and what you’ll eat on Christmas Eve? Many choose to dine out that day, giving them more time to spend with friends and family and less time washing dishes. This holiday season, Chef Bruce Kalman will once again host his acclaimed Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner at Union in Pasadena. This Italian-American tradition is said to have roots in southern Italy and Sicily where fish was abundant and Catholics continued to abstain from meat and certain animal products on holy days. Kalman’s anticipated Christmas Eve carries on the tradition with his usual showcase of Italian, Mediterranean and Californian influences. This year’s featured dishes include halibut croquetas with almond romesco, cured mackerel with sunchoke purée braised octopus with chickpea conserva, and olive oil poached sturgeon with potatoes.
The meal will be served on Saturday, December 24, 2016 from 4pm to 10p with optional, curated wine pairings. Reservations are highly encouraged.
Chef Bruce Kalman shares three recipes from the upcoming Christmas Eve feast. If you feel moved by his creative touches with seafood, try your hand at one of these recipes.
(Credit: Union)

(Credit: Union)

37 E Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-5841

(Credit: Union)

(Credit: Union)

Braised Octopus with Chickpea Conserva, Yogurt & Dukkah


  • Octopus
  • 5 pounds octopus legs
  • 1 gallon water
  • 3 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • Pinch red chili flakes
  • 2 each bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano

    1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot, and heat to a low simmer. Using a piece of parchment paper, cover the top of the octopus, and use a couple plates to keep under the liquid completely while cooking. Allow to cook for 5-6 hours or until the thickest part of the octopus is tender.
    2. When ready, transfer all of the ingredients into a large container to cool completely.


    • 4 cups cooked chickpeas (if you use canned, then rinse well)
    • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ cup red wine vinegar
    • ½ cup sherry vinegar
    • 1 cup fennel, shaved thin
    • 3 tablespoons thinly shaved red fresno chile
    • 1 tablespoons thinly shaved garlic
    • 1 orange, zest and juice
    • 1 lemon, zest and juice
    • 1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
    • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
    • Salt and pepper, to taste


    1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before serving. (You may need to adjust the seasoning and acidity by adding more citrus juice after marinating for a couple of days.)


    • ¼ cup white sesame seeds
    • ¼ cup coriander seeds, toasted and ground
    • ¼ cup cumin seeds, toasted and ground
    • 1 cup pistachios, toasted and ground
    • 1 teaspoon chili flakes, ground
    • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika


    1. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.


    • ½ cup plain yogurt
    • Parsley leaves, to garnish
    • Basil leaves, to garnish
    • Dill sprigs, to garnish


    1. Remove the octopus from the liquid, and dry with paper towels. Heat a sauté pan (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom surface of the pan. Season the octopus with salt and pepper, and carefully place in the hot pan. Allow to brown on one side, about 4-5 minutes, then turn over and brown the other side. Remove the octopus from the pan
    2. Place the chickpea conserva on a serving platter. Top with the octopus legs (you can also slice them before plating).
    3. Drizzle the yogurt over the octopus then sprinkle dukkah over the top. Garnish with parsley leaves, basil leaves and dill sprigs.
    (Credit: Union)

    (Credit: Union)

    Guanciale Wrapped Blowfish Tails

  • 12 blowfish tails
  • 12 thin slices guanciale
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shishito peppers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

    1. Wrap each blowfish tail with guanciale. Season with salt and pepper.
    2. In a medium size sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Lay the blowfish tails in the pan with the seam side of the guanciale down to lock it in place. Cook for 2-3 minutes, to render the guanciale and lightly brown the tail. Flip on the other side and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
    3. Remove the tails from the pan, and reduce the heat. Add the garlic and shishitos. Cook until the garlic begins to lightly brown. Add the lemon juice and butter. Stir to emulsify
    4. Add the tails back to the pan and coat with the sauce. If the sauce breaks, add a little water. Transfer the tails to a plate, and spoon the sauce over the top.
    (Credit: Union)

    (Credit: Union)

    Guanciale Wrapped Blowfish Tails

    • Romesco Sauce
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1 ½ cups almonds, toasted
    • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
    • 10 canned San Marzano tomatoes
    • 2 cups roasted red bell peppers
    • 1/8 cup Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons oil from Calabrian chilies
    • Salt and pepper, to taste


    1. In a blender, combine all ingredients, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.


    • 2 pounds halibut filets, poached and chilled
    • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled and riced
    • 1 cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
    • Zest of 3 Meyer lemons
    • 6 eggs
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • All-purpose flour, for dredging
    • 2 eggs, beaten with a little water
    • Breadcrumbs, for dredging
    • Oil, for frying


    1. In a mixing bowl, combine the halibut, potatoes, parsley and lemon zest, and mix evenly. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop, portion the mixture into balls; roll between your hands until smooth and round.
    2. Set up a breading station in 3 separate containers with flour, eggs and, finally, breadcrumbs. (Also have a small tray or plate for the finished product). Keeping one hand dry and one hand wet, begin breading with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. The croquetas should be well coated.
    3. Preheat a pot of oil or a deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Cook the croquetas until golden brown, crispy, and hot in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove from the fryer, and immediately season with salt. Serve right away, topped with romesco.
    Chrystal Baker is a freelance food and events contributor for CBS Los Angeles, Basil Magazine and Frugivore Magazine. She is the co-editor of a recipe blog, The Duo Dishes, and manages her own lifestyle and travel blog, Any and Everywhere.