Seafood Appetizers & Drink Pairings
By Mark DeWolf
If your house is like mine, the holiday season seems to start weeks before for the big day. Why not invite friends and family over for a holiday pre-party with gourmet nibbles and delightful cocktails? It’s a delicious start to the season.
PLANNING AHEAD OVERBOARD APPETIZERS
When it comes to seasonal parties, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. While there are many things that can only be done in the week leading into the event, there are items that require some preplanning. A few weeks before the event, starting think about the following:
It’s entering the holiday season, so to soften your own ego bruise, only count on 60 -70 per cent of who you invite to make it as invariably there is a lot going on for everyone this time of year.
If there is going to be a theme, plan on identifying it before sending out the invites. Be sure to suggest a dress code, particularly if you want everyone to dress in their most chic outfit or Sunday’s best.
Send out invitations. Old-fashioned, handwritten invitations say you really care. But, reality dictates an immediate response, so an easy way for guests to RSVP is to send an electronic invite. A number of online invitation services are available. Be sure to ask for any dietary restrictions.
Be sure to list cab company phone numbers or a link to their websites on your invitations. Better yet, suggest downloading a taxi company’s mobile app. Halifax’s Casino Taxi and Yellow Cab along with Sackville’s Satellite Taxi all offer apps to assist with getting home safely.
Make the Grocery List
Plan your menu well in advance so when the time comes you’re not stressed about the grocery run. Enter the ingredients on an Excel spreadsheet with columns for quantity required, stores where the item can be purchased and if you want, a column for the section in the store where you’ll find it (i.e cold beer section, wine (by country), spirit aisle, fresh vegetables, dairy, cheese, meat, frozen foods etc.). You’ll be surprised how much time it saves you and you won’t have that “I forgot the butter” moment when you are leaving the store.
‘Tis the holiday season so why not go overboard and make appetizers featuring local seafood? Fresh seafood never goes out of style, so we’ve devised recipes that are both classic and modern, including everyone’s favourite —seared scallops — but instead of wrapping them in bacon, we’re topping ours with pancetta jam. We are also serving some flavourful sauces to pair with oysters served on the half shell, mini crab cakes, lobster stuffed potatoes and a delicious new way to enjoy salmon. They all make great matches to sparkling wine. Dive in and enjoy these holiday hors d’oeuvres, which make delicious conversation starters.
If you are going overboard with great seafood appetizers, why not serve the best local wines available? Nova Scotia has gained an enviable reputation for the quality of its Traditional Method sparkling wines led by producers such as L’Acadie Vineyards, Benjamin Bridge and Blomidon Estate, amongst others. This holiday season be sure to cast your line into the sparkling wine section and catch a bottle of locally made bubbly.
While oysters served on the half shell is a delicacy in its own right, I like to spice up the affair by accompanying them with some flavourful sauces such as a homemade North African inspired harissa and salsa verde.
Preheat an oven to 450°F. Place 4 red peppers on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and place in paper bag. Allow to cool. Remove skins from peppers, deseed and chop. Place roasted pepper, 3 teaspoons freshly ground cumin, 3 teaspoons freshly ground coriander, 1 teaspoon paprika and 2 small Jalapeños, seeds removed and diced, in a blender. Add 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup mint leaves and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 1 jar
Prep Time: Less than 1 hour
Total Time: Less than 1 hour
Combine 1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley leaves, 1/4 cup of finely chopped mint leaves, 1 shallot (minced), 1 clove garlic (minced), 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar in a blender. Purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in a 1/4 cup capers in a bowl and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Makes 1 jar
Prep Time: Less than 30 minutes
Total Time: Less than 30 minutes