Explainers

How to put together an impressive seafood platter

It’s big. It’s bold. It’s an occasion in itself – the classic plateau de fruits de mer is a thing of joy. We list what's needed to do it justice.

By Pat Nourse
Seafood platter

This is no time for half-measures. A serious seafood platter doesn't necessarily call for vast variety (oysters, prawns and smoked salmon alone, for instance, can be pretty impressive in the right quantities), but demands generosity. And that goes double for the wine both in terms of volume and quality. Extend that generosity to the supply of finger bowls and hand towels to let your guests know you really care.

1. The lobster

Live lobsters don't store well at home, so either cook the lobster the day you buy it and remove the meat from the shell, or buy a lobster that has been cooked and frozen at sea, and thaw it yourself overnight in the fridge. Chop the meat for ease of serving before you plate it.

2. The crab

Lobster might be a byword for luxury, but for the true roll-up-the-sleeves seafood platter experience, boiled crab is where it's at. Buy your blue swimmers cooked (they don't store well raw) or your mud crabs live. Crackers and seafood picks are a must. A bowl of drawn (aka melted) butter is always welcome anywhere cooked crabs are offered.

3. The sauce

Marie Rose sauce (the sauce for prawn cocktails) plays well with crustaceans of all kinds. The cheat's version is simply a mix of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup. Pass a bottle of Tabasco or another hot sauce at the table for extra points.

4. The dressing

Mignonette is the classic choice here: a vinegar sauce flavoured with shallot and pepper that goes gangbusters with oysters. But there's also something to be said for ponzu, the Japanese sauce of soy, mirin and citrus. Or nuoc cham, Vietnam's lime, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar dressing.

5. The prawns

Getting the very best wild-caught Australian prawns in good nick can be a challenge at Christmas; the safest bet for a platter is sourcing good frozen cooked prawns ahead and thawing them overnight in a colander in the crisper. Give them a quick rinse in salted water just before serving.

6. The lemons

If you were feeling really Martha Stewart you could wrap them in muslin to spare your guests the inconvenience of pips in their oysters. Limes are a nice addition here, as are blood limes or finger limes.

7. The clams

Add a bit of excitement to your platter with some clams, simply boiled in salted water till they pop open.

8. The oysters

There's no substitute for the freshness of an oyster shucked to order. Rock oysters from northern NSW are a good choice in summer; kept cool (ideally at about 14°C) and wrapped in a damp cloth, they'll hold unopened for at least a week. Don't seal them in plastic, immerse them in water or keep them on ice – it'll kill them.

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  • Author: Pat Nourse