A staple of French bistros and seafood restaurants, the chilled seafood tower is a visually appealing (and delicious!) holiday statement piece. It’s a versatile option consisting of both cooked and raw seafood that can be served during any course, and can also be made ahead of time.
While it may look daunting, a great seafood tower is relatively easy to create when following a few key steps:
What to Include in a Seafood Tower
The traditional seafood tower is comprised of both raw and cooked fish and highlights the seafood’s natural briny sweetness. While there is no hard and fast rules around what should or shouldn't be included in a seafood tower, we suggest the following assortment:
The cornerstone of most shellfish towers, oysters are a decadent addition to any holiday celebration. For the best range and presentation, offer a choice of both Atlantic oysters and Pacific oysters - at least one variety from each coast. Varying sizes allow for variety in texture, taste and visual appeal. For instance, pair the petite, nutty Kumamoto oysters from the west coast with a large, briny Blue Point oysters from the east coast.
Littleneck clams or cherrystone clams are the traditional choices for a raw bar presentation as they’re small enough to enjoy on their own with a delicate texture and slightly sweet flavor. You can steam your clams just until the shell opens if you prefer a cooked option!
Everyone’s favorite seafood platter star, shrimp bring a natural sweetness to any assortment. Pre-peeled and cooked jumbo shrimp, often called cocktail shrimp, make for an easy option that just need to be thawed and rinsed. Other options include sweet Gulf shrimp. Peel and devein each shrimp, leaving the tail intact, and boil based on the size of your shrimp.
Crab legs and claws tend to be the highlight of many a seafood platter. Snow crab, and the seasonal, stone crab claws all make for fantastic crab choices.
Lobster renders any fish tower into a luxurious treat. Small lobster tails are a manageable size for seafood towers and can be divided into halves for easier sharing. Or steam a whole lobster in advance and offer both the tail and claw meat as part of your seafood tower.
If you would like to make your seafood tower platter truly decadent, set a jar of caviar at the center of the top tier.
Tip: Do not use silver spoons as they can leave a metallic taste. Instead, use a mother of pearl spoon, bone spoon or even a plastic spoon.
Prepare Your Seafood
Steam the shrimp, crab, and lobster and chill. You can steam your shellfish up to 1 day before your holiday party. Shuck oysters and clams right before your guests arrive. That’s all there is to a seafood tower recipe!
Prepare Your Accoutrements
Lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, remoulade, and a classic mignonette sauce all pair beautifully with the tower’s shellfish assortment. If you are serving caviar, offer crème fraîche and blinis as well.
Prepare Your Seafood Tower
A multi-tiered metal tower is the classic presentation option. Line each tier with paper towels or a bar towel to absorb some of the ice water as it melts, then fill the bowls with crushed ice. How to make a seafood platter couldn’t be easier! Simply arrange your seafood with the cooked items on the top tiers and your raw assortment on the bottom tiers.