Start your Easter meal with chilled, pre-cooked shrimp served with avocado crema instead of cocktail sauce. Image source: Flickr CC user theilr
I’ll never forget the first time I hosted Easter dinner. My mom had a broken wrist that year, so I took it upon myself to make a feast for sixteen of my family members. I went all out. Not only did I make all of my mom’s classic dishes like roast lamb, potato gratin, and lemon-scented asparagus, I also made an appetizer bar in my living room.
Now, my mom has never served appetizers at Easter dinner, and that year, I learned why—everybody totally stuffed themselves with my spinach and artichoke dip, chicken arugula meatballs, and baked brie. When dinner came around, no one seemed as excited as they should have been to eat.
Alas, I learned my lesson. For the past few Easters, I’ve made light, fresh seafood appetizers because they nicely contrast the meat-heavy Easter meal, and appropriately whet (not ruin) the appetites of my guests so that they can truly enjoy the entire meal.
How to Make Great Seafood Appetizers
More often than not, seafood appetizers are heavy on the cheese, are fried, or just seem way too rich and filling. So I decided to create my own recipes. And in doing so, I discovered the key characteristics of a good appetizer.
Because appetizers are so small, they should be seasoned impeccably and should pack a punch of flavor. This usually means that you will need to salt them a little more than you would salt a main dish. That extra pinch will make the flavors pop, which in turn stimulates appetite. Secondly, they should contain an acidic component. Sour ingredients, like lemon, lime, or vinegar, perk up the digestion and prepare us for a big meal.
When using seafood in appetizers, I try to let the flavor of the seafood be the most dominant—especially if you are using the freshest seafood available. Many of the recipes I found paired very overpowering or spicy ingredients with the seafood, and I tend to think that if you are going to spend money on seafood, you’d better taste it. Fresh herbs, quality sea salt, and hit of lemon can go a long way in highlighting the flavors of the seafood.
Use Pre-Cooked, Chilled Seafood for Ease
Anyone who has cooked Easter dinner, or any other holiday meal for a big family, knows that it’s a lot of work. That is probably another reason my mom never bothered with making appetizers. So I try to make it as no-fuss as possible by using pre-cooked, chilled seafood. Not only is it already cooked to perfection, it also saves me a ton of time so that I can focus on making the rest of the dinner. There’s no peeling and deveining all the shrimp, and there’s no cracking and picking the crab. I also save even more time by ordering my seafood online, so I don’t even have to make an extra trip to the fishmonger.
I also serve all my appetizers cold, so all I have to do is pluck them out of the fridge and put them on a platter. Making them a day ahead can also be a huge time-saver that allows you to fully focus on cooking Easter dinner.
Chilled Shrimp with Avocado Crema (makes 20)
Pulse everything except the shrimp in a food processor until smooth. If too thick, you can thin out with a bit more lime juice (or water, if it is already acidic enough). Transfer to a small dish and serve on a platter with shrimp. Note: to store this so it doesn’t oxidize, place the pit of the avocado in the center of the dip and cover tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is touching the surface of the crema. Serve the shrimp on ice, and if you like, offer cocktail sauce as well as the crema.
Cucumber Cups with Dill Creme Fraiche and King Salmon Roe (makes 10-12)
Using a small melon baller or a teaspoon, scoop the seeds out of each cucumber, leaving a little at the bottom, to create a little cup. Mix creme fraiche, lemon zest, and juice, dill and salt in a small bowl. Fill each cucumber cup with just under a tablespoon of the mixture. Top with a teaspoon of salmon roe and garnish with a sprig of dill.
Dungeness Crab Salad in Endive (serves 10-12)
Mix everything except endive in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Arrange endive on a platter and fill each with a tablespoon or two of the crab salad.
Pleasing the Easter Crowd with Fresh Seafood
When it comes to cooking Easter dinner, there are no shortcuts. My mom wouldn’t allow it. But for appetizers, shortcuts are welcome and necessary—especially because I’m not sacrificing quality. Ordering fresh seafood online is a real time saver, but I’m also getting an amazing product that I know my guests will enjoy. DailyFreshFish.com offers the freshest hand-selected fish and seafood on the market, and it is delivered to your door the day after you place an order, so you can spend more time celebrating the holiday with your loved ones than slaving away in the kitchen.