You may want to consider a seafood platter/buffet for your next dinner party idea.
A seafood platter is often a real treat for people when ordered at a restaurant so you can imagine your friends' delight if you decide to serve them this meal at your next dinner party together.
The first thing I'd suggest when considering this idea is to make sure you have checked that your guests actually like seafood first. You don't have to ask them directly if you'd like to surprise them with a seafood platter - you could simply ask if there is any food that they don't like or can't tolerate (remember, a lot of people are allergic to seafood).
The platter could consist of anything from oysters, prawns (shrimps), crabs and lobster (or crayfish) for a cold platter or you can add some hot seafood like fish fillets, calamari rings, scallops and baby octopus. Try to buy all of your seafood on the day on which it is to be served. If you are serving a combined platter, make sure you keep the cold seafood in the fridge until just before serving so nothing goes off.
Pre set your table for each guest with a large dinner plate and also small bowls filled with warm water and a lemon wedge. This would be used for people to clean their fingers after taking off shells, etc. Be sure that there's a quality cloth serviette for each guest since they'll be rinsing their hands with the warm water and using the serviettes to dry their hands. If you are serving crab, it's great to be able to offer claw crackers to each guest so they can break open the legs and harder shells. Here's an example:
Be sure to have a large bowl in the middle of the table for shells to be placed within as people peel the prawns or crack open the crab or lobster - a place also to discard oyster shells.
On your platter you can include natural oysters along with garnished oysters (add some salmon row for instance) to the platter or try some of the following:
- Oysters lightly grilled with a dill, lemon and caper butter finish
- Oyster grilled with a tomato and onion relish and a little haloumi cheese
- Oyster Kilpatrick (grilled with julienne bacon and Worcestershire sauce)
If you are adding other hot seafood to your platter, I would suggest barbecuing the seafood (or any grill is fine).
Be sure to brush or spray any seafood lightly with olive oil before you grill it so it doesn't stick. Make sure your grill is very hot before you cook the seafood. If you are using a barbecue with heat beads, wait until they have turned a whitish-gray before cooking - this can take 45-60 minutes so make sure you have properly timed this into your schedule. If food has been refrigerated bring it to back to room temperature before cooking. White fish will only take around a minute to cook.
Prawns with the flavor of a barbecue taste delicious and char-grilled baby octopus is always popular but you must remember not to overcook these as they will become chewy and rubbery.
Marinades are great and very popular for seafood but if you don't have time for this, the seafood cooked in their own juices are tasty too. Marinades are liquid bases that you season to marinate food in before cooking and this method allows foods to absorb the flavors - and makes the food tenderer.
Try to use a glass or ceramic bowl for the liquid then place the seafood within this allowing it to marinate in the fridge. Drain the food well before placing in onto the barbecue. Remember to stir the food in the marinade a few times (one or twice an hour) so each piece gets a good covering. Rather than pour the marinade over the food when cooking, brush the remaining liquid on while cooking the seafood otherwise it may cause a flare up.
You can marinate prawns for as little as 20 minutes in a mixture like this if you are time poor:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
a squeeze of lime juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
In fact, if you create any seafood marinade it will usually include ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and garlic (this is always a great base for a marinade) and marinate for three or four hours for best results.
When you've finished cooking, place everything tastefully onto a large platter and add some lemon wedges or some barbecued lime slices (thickly cut lime slices cooked face down until they are brown in color).
Imagine the faces on your guests as you carry out a platter brimming with delicious seafood. Place it in the middle of your table which has been nicely laid out with a crisp table cloth and a stylish floral center peice.
The great thing with seafood is that it's fairly light so it's ideal for either lunch or dinner indoors or out.
And don't forget the rule - white meat goes with white wine and red meat is best served with red wine. Find out more about matching food and wine here
Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.
The Hostess with the Mostess