Eric Akis: Seafood tower for two makes luxurious Valentine's Day dinner

Eric Akis

If your partner and you love seafood, for Valentine’s Day dinner, why not lessen your pandemic blues and treat yourself to a fabulous seafood tower. The kind they might serve in a fancy restaurant where luxurious chilled seafood is artfully arranged on an ice-filled tiered stand and served with complementary sauces.

If you’re now hooked on that idea, try my recipes. Feel free to adjust the amount and types of seafood used according to your taste and appetite.

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Most seafood items needed for the tower will be at their best consumed the day of purchase. However, if very fresh, you could store them up to a day in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

Before building your tower, to ensure it comes together quickly, have all your seafood items chilled and ready to go, your sauces in bowls and the garnishes and serving utensils needed at the ready.

Deluxe Seafood Tower for Two

This tower offers a heavenly mix of chilled seafood for two with complimentary sauces. Serve the tower with sliced baguette and bottle of sparking wine.

Preparation time: 60 minutes

Cooking time: a few minutes

Makes: two servings

6 to 8 fresh mussels, washed and any beard-like material removed (see Eric options)

tuna poke (recipe below)

100 grams hand peeled or other cooked, small salad-style shrimp

1 (about 1 1/2 lb. /680 g) cold, cooked Dungeness crab, cleaned and separated into 1 or 2 leg pieces (see Note 1 and Eric’s options)

6 small oysters, scrubbed, shucked and left in the half shell

4 to 6 large cold, cooked, peeled prawns

4 smoked salmon nuggets

• hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

• bowls of cocktail sauce and creamy tarragon sauce (recipes below)

• bowl mignonette sauce (optional; see Note 2)

• crushed ice (see Note 3), lemon wedges and parsley sprigs

Place 2 Tbsp water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover, and cook until they just open. Set mussels on a plate and cool to room temperature. Remove top shell from each mussel. Cover and refrigerate the meat-filled half mussels until needed.

To make the seafood tower, divide the tuna poke between two small serving glasses. Also divide the shrimp between two small glasses. Set the glasses of tuna and shrimp on a two-tiered serving stand. Mound crushed ice around the glasses on each level of the stand. Arrange the mussels, crab, oysters, prawns and salmon on the ice; garnish with the lemon and parsley.

Let seafood chill on the ice a few minutes. Set the hot pepper, cocktail, creamy tarragon and mignonette sauces alongside the seafood tower. Set out some seafood crackers and picks, small forks and plates and dig in.

Note 1: Cold, cooked Dungeness crab is sold at seafood stores and some supermarkets. Ask the clerk to clean the crab and you will end up with two half pieces of crab to bring home. If desired, you could also buy a live, cleaned crab, cook it at home, cool it and use it for the tower.

Note 2: Make mignonette sauce for the oysters by combining 2 Tbsp wine vinegar, 1 tsp finely chopped shallots and pinches dried tarragon and black pepper in a small bowl.

Note 3: If you ask nice, some seafood stores may give you a bag of crushed ice. To make your own, though, put 24 or so ice cubes in a thick plastic bag and use a kitchen hammer to pound them into crushed ice.

Eric’s options: If you prefer fresh clams, replace the mussels with them, preparing them in the same way. Instead of Dungeness, use frozen cooked king crab or snow crab legs, to taste, thawed and cut into smaller pieces. Or replace the crab with a whole, cold cooked lobster, cleaned and separated into pieces. If you don’t have two-tiered stand, fill a large, sided serving platter with crushed ice and serve the seafood on it.

Tuna Poke

Raw, marinated, Hawaiian-style tuna, rich with salty, sweet, sour and spicy flavours.

Preparation time: minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: two servings

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp orange juice

2 tsp lime juice

1 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp Sriracha or other smooth hot chili sauce

1 Tbsp minced green onion

1 (about 170 gram) frozen ahi or albacore tuna loin, partially thawed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Combine ingredients, except tuna, in a bowl. Add tuna and gently toss. Cover, refrigerate and marinate tuna until needed. It can be made many hours in advance.

Creamy Tarragon Mustard Sauce

This tangy sauce makes a nice dip for chilled seafood.

Preparation time: a few minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: about 2/3 cup

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp horseradish

1/2 dried tarragon

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp lemon juice

• salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Sauce can be made many hours in advance.

Cocktail Sauce

The classic, zesty sauce to serve with chilled seafood.

Preparation time: a few minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: about 2/3 cup

1/2 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp horseradish, or to taste

1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Sauce can be made many hours in advance.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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