Good quality smoked salmon and a quick and tasty cream cheese and sour cream-based spread make the perfect finger food for a small gathering. Image source: Flickr CC user Steven Depolo
Every couple of months or so, a friend will call the house in a mild panic because it’s their turn to host a party (either a book club, investment club, parent meeting, dinner group or something similar) and they are having a hard time planning the menu. That’s because so many people have crazy food allergies these days, and everyone has a dietary restriction. “Sandy is a vegetarian, but she eats fish. What kind of vegetarian eats fish?” they will say. I tell them, “I believe that is called a pescetarian, …” There’s so many people who are also gluten-free, etc.
The best way to go with these groups is obviously seafood, and that’s why my friends always call me.
If there is one thing I know, it’s seafood. Since book clubs, investment clubs and parent meetings - to name a few — involve eating, socializing and sharing information, I’m going to focus an array of appetizer-type samplings that can be eaten as finger food.
A Menu to Suit All Types of Eaters
Since we do want to have a few options, to better our chances of having something that will satisfy everyone, we’ll want to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, silly). This will be the trick to being able to make a variety of dishes without spending all day cooking (instead of reading those chapters for book club you were supposed to read…). To help keep it simple, we will use pre-cooked shrimp, pre-smoked salmon, and clams. More than half of this is already cooked, making our lives easier before we even get started.
Shrimp Two Ways
Tiger shrimp are a good choice because they have great flavor and are a sustainable seafood, which means they’re farmed in a way that’s kind to the earth (and you also get bragging rights to tell your friends how you buy sustainable seafood). For these recipes, I recommend getting your shrimp precooked from a reliable distributor like Daily Fresh Fish. In my friend’s scenario, Daily Fresh Fish is perfect since it’s not only guaranteed to be fresh but also can arrive the next day.
These two shrimp recipes appeal to nearly everyone and are easy to make--even easier if you start, as we did, with precooked and peeled shrimp. We will go with Shrimp Deviled Eggs (who doesn’t love a deviled egg?) and a simple shrimp cocktail.
Shrimp Deviled Eggs
These deviled eggs are pretty simple. Once you have boiled your eggs (use about a dozen for 8 people) and removed your yolks from the whites, you will want to mash up the yolks with a few key ingredients.
¼ lb chopped pre-cooked shrimp
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Spoon the mixture back into your egg white halves and top it off with fresh parsley for presentation or a sprinkle of smoked paprika. You’ll likely have more filling than usual (because of the addition of shrimp)--this just means each egg will need to be mounded up high. If you still have leftover filling, it goes great on crackers, or between slices of crustless white bread as an elegant a tea sandwich.
The shrimp cocktail is easy. For the shrimp itself, since your shrimp is already cooked, just splash a little lemon and lime over it. You can go to your local supermarket and buy cocktail sauce, or you can just whip some up fresh. I usually make two different kinds of sauce (I like to be a crowd pleaser).
Combine in a bowl:
½ cup ketchup
Worcestershire sauce to taste (I like a couple dashes)
3 tablespoons horseradish
Two big squeezes of lemon (or to taste)
A splash of tabasco
Mustard Lime Dipping Sauce:
Combine in a bowl:
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons brown mustard
Honey to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Dash of worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
Big squeeze from a lime
Baked Stuffed Clams
There is also easy way to make gluten-free baked clams that everyone can enjoy. All you have to do is find a good substitute for regular bread crumbs. Luckily for you, lots of people have been going gluten-free. You could make your own, but for the sake of ease, let’s just go buy some from the store. I prefer the gluten-free panko type myself.
Start by steaming about 3 pounds of manila clams in a large pot. You want to steam them just long enough for the clams to start to open, but don’t cook them all the way--we’ll be cooking them more later. If a clam does not open, it usually means it was not fresh. If you purchase your clams from a good supplier that keeps them cold and doesn’t let them sit, they should all open up after about 5-6 minutes. Once they’ve cooled, remove the empty half of the shell and place the half with the meat on a baking dish.
¼ cup finely chopped cooked carrots
¼ cup finely chopped cooked celery
½ cup diced cooked onion
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup grated parmesan
1 stick melted butter
2 cups gluten-free panko-style bread crumbs
Squeeze of lemon juice
Clam juice, as needed
In a bowl, mix together the first eight ingredients. Add clam juice as necessary if the filling is still too dry. Next, spoon about a tablespoonful onto each clam shell. As an added touch, I like to sprinkle a little more parmesan on top. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees and serve.
Smoked Salmon Bites
This last and easiest recipe is actually the one likely to impress your guests the most. It’s the truth that whenever you put smoked salmon on a cracker, people love it. This appetizer is so easy to make that I’ll just cut right to the recipe and let you thank me later for saving you so much time.
Mix equal parts (1/2 cup each would be a good start for a book club gathering of 8 or 9 people) cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl with some salt, pepper and dill to taste. Chopped green onions or chives also make a nice addition.
Smear on gluten-free cracker of your choosing
Place smoked salmon on top
Salmon is always an excellent choice when choosing a protein. Not only is it amazingly healthy and delicious but when you buy it from the right supplier, it’s also one of the most sustainable seafood choices out there. Use a quality smoked salmon and I promise, this will be the first thing to leave the table, making you the hero of your book club, Bible study, or other small gathering.
There are so many great options to choose from when looking for a quick and easy seafood smorgasbord to please even the pickiest of eaters. The most important thing to remember is to make sure it is fresh to ensure the best flavor. Daily Fresh Fish will send your seafood straight to your door, and we’re even certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which means that not only will get you get the freshest fish in just a day’s time, but it’ll also be good for the environment.