What to Bring to a Christmas Party: Order Shellfish Online for the Best Cold Seafood Platter


A cold seafood platter can include any kind of seafood you like. The trick to a great presentation is to make the platter look abundant. Image source: Flickr CC user Gilda

Last year, I went to a friend’s house for a Christmas party, and nearly every guest brought a bottle of wine, myself included. Halfway through the party, the unthinkable happened: all the finger foods and appetizers were gone. Yet, we still had more than enough wine. To be fair, we probably should have done a better job coordinating with our host about what she needed. However, I think Christmas party guests generally have a tendency to get stuck in a rut at this time of year, always reaching for a bottle of wine before going to a party.

One of the things I’ve started doing in order to mix it up a bit is to bring a cold seafood platter instead. A tray of fresh fish that guests can eat with their fingers or off of small plates is almost always welcomed. I’ve got tips and inspiration for building the perfect seafood platter, and a few suggestions about wines to pair with it as well.

Cold Seafood Platter Options

First, it’s important to know what your options for cold seafood are before you start picking what you want on your tray. Below are my favorites, plus the amounts I usually go with. My suggestion would be to choose six of these for a truly opulent platter, but for a simpler plate you might pick just three or four. If you do choose fewer options, increase the amounts of each seafood as necessary. I like putting all my seafood on one platter--it just looks better that way--but if you need to, feel free to spread your seafood among two or more smaller platters.

If you choose to serve any of the raw seafood (like oysters or raw clams), remember that your tray will need a layer of crushed ice.

Centerpiece: The Star of Your Platter

For the centerpiece, I like to use either the lobster tails, or the fresh Dungeness crab. Since this is a Christmas party, I’d highly recommend Dungeness crab, which is in season right around the holidays.

  • If you choose lobster tail, it will need to be cooked first, which is actually very simple. Just place the lobster tail upside down on the board, and use a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut lengthways along the tail’s underside, pulling the two halves apart slightly. Then season it with paprika, salt, and white pepper, and broil in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Once it has cooled, remove the meat and cut it into bite size pieces for your tray.
  • If you buy from a good online retailer, your Dungeness crab will come cooked, so all you’ll need to do is cut it into portions for your fellow guests (or buy it pre-cracked). If you don’t buy it pre-cracked and don’t have time to crack the legs and claws in advance of the party, don’t forget to bring a crab cracker (or two or three) for guests.

Outer Rim: Creating the Appearance of Abundance

Next, pick three or four of the smaller seafood options to spread around the outer rim of the try. I’m just going to tell you upfront that shrimp is a must. It’s a universal favorite, and there will be disappointment if you bring a shrimpless seafood platter. As for the rest of the platter, go with your favorites--you can pick from oysters, mussels, clams, or even scallops. For a more traditional crowd, I think I’d stick with shrimp, oysters and clams. If you have a more adventurous set, I’d try out the mussels and scallops, both of which some people have never eaten cold. Take into account how the tray is beginning to look--if your seafood looks spread out and sparse, the tray won’t make as big an impact. You’re going for an appearance of bounty.

  • If you decide to use oysters, you should shuck them ahead of time and serve them in their juices.
  • For clams, you’ll need to shuck them by separating the top from the bottom shell. If you choose not to serve them raw, steam them just enough to open their shells, then chill.
  • If you’re using precooked tiger or bay shrimp, they need only be rinsed.
  • Mussels should be rinsed and steamed for 5 to 7 minutes in a covered pot with just enough water to cover the bottom. Mussels are done when they are open.
  • Scallops should be cooked gently, cooled, and then served chilled. Cook them in a pan for 2 minutes per side with butter or oil.

Prepared Salads: Now take a pair of small bowls, add the calamari and seaweed salads to them, and place one on each end of the platter. Of course, if you’d rather not deal with dishes that need forks, you can simply double down on all the finger food options we’ve just discussed above.

Dipping Sauces: The final addition to your tray is sauces for dipping. I like to make my own sweet and sour Asian-inspired sauce with this recipe. Simply process the following ingredients in a food processor and then serve:

  • 2 long green chilies, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated palm sugar
  • ⅓ cup of fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup of lime juice

For a creamy, dill-flavored second sauce reminiscent of tartar sauce, stir these ingredients together in a bowl and serve:

  • ⅔ cup of mayonnaise (for less fat, go with fat free plain Greek-style yogurt instead)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon rind
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • (Optional) 2 cloves of garlic, grated

Wine: In case your host or hostess has mostly red wines, it’s not a bad idea to bring a white wine or two to go with your platter (and if you are the host, you’ll definitely want to have several good seafood-friendly whites on hand). You’ll want to go with a dry wine, as a sweet one will overwhelm the delicate cold seafood flavors. Don’t choose anything too powerful and alcoholic, or anything overly oaky. The following wines work well with a variety of seafood:

  • Domestic Riesling
  • Vinho Verde
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Greco di Tufo
  • Chablis

Finding the Right Seafood

An excellent cold seafood platter will endear you to your host and make sure that you’ll spend the next holiday season fielding an array of invites. Since these trays involve such an array of very fresh seafood options, I’d recommend using a trustworthy online seafood market like Daily Fresh Fish, which delivers only the freshest seafood directly to your door, so you don’t have to spend precious holiday time looking for the freshest seafood in the quantities at the grocery story. Even better, all of Daily Fresh Fish’s products are sustainably caught or raised, which benefits the ocean and the people who make their living from it.