This French bistro staple of cooked and raw seafood arranged on tiered plates is a stunner—and an ideal meal to make in advance for the holidays. There’s no right way to build a seafood tower: Mix and match your favourite elements and serve on stacked plates or display across the table in a festive spread. We’ve made it easy to pull off a restaurant-quality one at home with a make-ahead game plan, step-by-step recipes and seafood options for every taste and budget.
Littleneck clams shine after a quick beer bath and a squeeze of lemon. Drizzle them with drawn butter or hot sauce. Get this clams recipe.
Court bouillon—an aromatic broth made from white wine, lemon juice and shrimp shells—is key to this recipe’s flavourful and tender shrimp. Get this shrimp cocktail recipe.
To add a bit of luxury to your tower, include lobster. Here, we make it simple to cook at home. If you’re not ready to dive into making fresh lobster yet, most supermarkets with a seafood counter will cook the lobster for you. Get this boiled lobster recipe.
Reminiscent of European tinned mussels, these paprika-spiced beauties can be made up to 2 days ahead. Get this mussels recipe.
Once you’ve mastered the easy-to-learn art of shucking them, oysters are a delightful addition to any seafood feast.
How do I tell if they’re fresh? Separate any oysters with open shells. Tap the shell on the counter: If the oyster snaps closed, it’s alive and can be used; if it doesn’t, it should be discarded.
How long do oysters last? Live oysters are best consumed within 2 days of purchase; however, they have a 5-day shelf life when stored properly in a cold refrigerator.
What do I serve them with? Anything you like! A squeeze of lemon, a grating of horseradish, even a splash of gin. We also have three delicious and easy mignonette sauce recipes that can be made in advance and stored in the fridge: a classic vinegar mignonette, a ponzu-ish mignonette, and a chimichurri mignonette.
Made with a mix of buckwheat and all-purpose flours, these blinis can be prepared several days in advance. Get this blini recipe.
Drawn butter is a classic dipping option for cooked lobster, crab legs, or shrimp. We have a simple method for making it in advance, and some fun recipes to spice it up just before serving.
Inspired by the classic cocktail, this cocktail sauce recipe makes a great dip for lettuce cups topped with shrimp or oysters. Hint: short on time and ingredients? Sriracha stirred into store-bought cocktail sauce has similar flavour and is ready in seconds.
How To Handle Cooked Lobster
Before diving in, remember that it’s impossible to shell a lobster without making a big mess; that’s why lobster bibs exist. You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet covered with a kitchen towel, a nutcracker or heavy chef’s knife and a fork.
Holding lobster over baking sheet, twist the claws and pull out to remove.
Crack each claw with a nutcracker or the dull side of the blade of a chef’s knife.
Separate the tail from the body by arching the back until it cracks and then twisting and pulling out the tail.
Bend back the tail and break the flippers off.
Insert a fork into the tail opening and push the meat out the other end.
Pull the shell with the head off the body. The body cavity contains the tomalley, or liver, of the lobster, which is edible and turns green when cooked. If the lobster was female, you may find orange roe in here as well.
Illustrations by Emily Chu.
The low-stress approach to this high-impact spread? Start early and take your time.
Three Days Before
Two Days Before
One Day Before
Two Hours Before
One Hour Before
While they’re optional, prawns look impressive on a seafood tower. To prepare them (up to 1 day ahead), cut along back of prawn with kitchen shears to expose vein; remove vein with a paring knife. Toss prawns with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Heat a greased grill pan over medium-high; add prawns in batches and cook, turning until shells are bright red and flesh is cooked, 4 to 5 min. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and let cool.
Frozen king crab legs are already cooked and just require a quick reheat. Thaw in fridge overnight. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add crab and return to a simmer for 6 min. Remove crab, let cool and chill for up to 2 days. Pat dry before serving.