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How to Build a Seafood Tower: A Step-By-Step Guide

It’s easier than you think — follow these tips to pull it off at home.

A stunning seafood tower is just the ticket to wowing your guests at any party. Does it sound a little over-the-top? It is, in a good way — and luckily, it’s easier than you think. Pull it off (you will), and your guests will be talking about it for months to come.

Besides, what better way to showcase the fish and shellfish — all sustainable wild-caught or Responsibly Farmed — in our Seafood department? Yes, you’re going to make a seafood tower at home. And it’s going to be awesome. Read on for our step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Choose your seafood.

Oysters on the half shell, crab, lobster, shrimp, caviar — the world is your … well, you know. And if there’s room, add ceviche (find some pre-made in many of our stores) or clams, which need very little preparation (either serve them raw or steam them).

Oysters on the half shell: After choosing from your local store’s selection of fresh oysters, ask our Seafood team members to pack them for you on crushed ice. At home, follow these easy instructions for cleaning and shucking right before serving. When it’s go-time, scoop the crushed ice into your serving platter and nestle each of the shells into the ice. Spoon the oysters and liquor into the shells.

Grilled or baked oysters: If raw oysters on the half shell aren’t your jam, check out our cooked options like Buffalo Grilled or Baked Oysters Rockefeller. (If you’re cooking them in the oven, use a cast-iron pan with rock salt to keep the shells in place and retain the heat for serving.)

Crab: When you buy cooked crab legs or claws, ask a Seafood team member to crack them for you, so it’s easy for your guests to pull them apart. If you’re buying whole crabs, they can crack those too.

Lobster: If you’re having a small gathering then, by all means, serve individual lobster tails. Otherwise, slice steamed lobster tail into bite-sized pieces.

Shrimp: Serve cold, cooked large shrimp piled on top of ice to keep everything chilled. Use peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp for the easiest guest experience.

While you’re shopping, pick up a few bottles of wine to serve with your tower. Let one of our Wine team members lend their expertise with a few pairing recommendations.

Step 2: Build the tower.

Here’s the basic formula for a two-tiered tower:

Top layer: Anything cooked. Crab legs or claws, lobster and shrimp with accompanying sauces such as a cocktail sauce or garlicky aioli or chile oil. Caviar with crème fraîche. Add lemon wedges for zing.

Bottom layer: Any raw seafood. Think oysters on the half shell with lemon wedges and small ramekins of sauces all nestled in crushed ice. For the sauces, check out Traditional Cocktail Sauce, Spicy Garlic Oil and Classic Mignonette. Consider setting out your favorite hot sauce and spicy toppings such as finely diced jalapeños or freshly grated horseradish too. (Make sure there’s no cross-contamination between cooked and raw seafood.)

No tower? No problem. You can still create a show-stopping seafood bar with a couple of large, wide, high-sided platters piled with seafood on a bed of crushed ice and studded with lemon wedges and ramekins of dipping sauces. Tip: Freeze the platters before using to keep things cooler for longer.

Step 3: Set out the right tools.

While you (or your local fishmonger) will be doing a lot of the prep work in advance for your guests, be sure to set out the right tools to help them enjoy.

  • Seafood picks for pre-cracked crab legs or claws

  • Tiny forks for oysters

  • Napkins, lots of them

  • Individual finger bowls with lemon water (to rinse off sticky fingers!)

  • Discard bowls for shells

Step 4: Enjoy!

Keep the seafood and the serving platters cold until the last minute. This will also help keep the ice from melting as quickly. To be safe, have lots of crushed ice (keyword: lots) on hand. Keep an eye on your tower and replenish ice as needed.

Consuming raw or undercooked seafood or shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

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