Ring in a bountiful new year with a festive spread of appetizers highlighting the rich bounty of wild-caught seafood. Fresh and delicious, decadent yet healthy, appetizers made with wild-caught Alaskan seafood set the stage for an unforgettable evening. They don’t have to be elaborate or high-maintenance to be holiday-worthy, and they might even get you started on your New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself from the inside out.
Whether you want to enjoy just a few nibbles or are assembling an all-out charcuterie, here are 12 ideas for wild-caught seafood appetizers that will have you starting out 2021 with a splash.
Sweet meets savory in Rob Eggleston’s recipe for sockeye salmon teriyaki skewers. These can be grilled outdoors if it’s nice or on a cast-iron grill pan if the weather doesn’t permit a New Year’s cookout. To make prep for these cocktail-sized skewers a little easier, it helps to slice the salmon into strips while it’s still slightly frozen inside, since the fillet will be a bit firmer. Feel free to adapt this recipe to other flavors by swapping out the teriyaki for something like a peanut satay sauce or a honey mustard dip.
Fish cakes are ridiculously easy to make, no matter what flavor profiles you’re into or what you have available in the pantry. For New Year’s Eve, make them mini for partygoers to enjoy as poppable little bites. Ground sockeye salmon is an especially convenient, ready-to-use protein option, but any variety of lean fish will do, whether you’re working with raw fillets or fish that’s already been cooked.
Don’t forget the fish dips! We’ve got a list of schmears, spreads and mousse ideas that will have your guests noshing through the night. You can also follow along with Epicurious’s make-anything-into-a-dip recipe if you want to freestyle it.
Smoked Sockeye Salmon
If you have buckwheat flour in your pantry, fire up your griddle to make a batch of appetizer-sized smoked salmon blinis. They’re quick to make, easy to assemble, and a perfect accompaniment to a flute or two of bubbly, whether you’re staying in for the evening or waking up to a special New Year’s Day brunch affair.
To make something truly decadent for your New Year’s shindig, bake up little buttery puffs of dough to fill with smoked salmon and a cream cheese mixture. Food & Wine’s recipe for smoked salmon puffs can be partially made ahead of time to keep your day-of party prep streamlined.
For a no-cook appetizer idea, try out this effortless recipe for smoked salmon tartare. Seasoned with soy sauce, wasabi, and sesame, this tartare begs to be served with plenty of rice crackers or deep-fried seaweed chips.
To really warm up your kitchen on a cold night, slather an entire pack of weathervane scallops with miso butter, then blast them beneath your broiler for a no-flip, no-fuss appetizer option. In just three minutes of cook time, each succulent, sweet scallop will be cooked through and caramelized under a serious layer of umami. For a few pointers on how to broil scallops, check out our how-to blog post.
Steamed scallops also don’t need any flipping or babysitting as they cook, and can be prepared and served on scallops shells for a festive presentation. Try Rasa Malaysia’s riff on a classic Chinese appetizer of scallops steamed with soy sauce and topped with crispy garlic bits.
Dungeness and Snow Crab
Whether you’re partial to briny Dungies or sweet snow crabs, steam, grill, or bake up a batch of them to serve alongside a trio of dips or sauces for an appetizing variety of tastes and textures. This appetizer is a true treat for the host, too, since crab legs couldn’t be easier to make; after all, they’re pre-cooked so they really just need to be heated up, and most dips can be made ahead of time.
Alternatively, skip the dip and season the crab legs as they heat up, whether in a flavorful steam, a garlicky butter sauce, or a spiced boil mixture.
Ned Bell’s recipe for poached spot prawns does double duty as both an appetizer and a cocktail, perching a few sweet, jumbo-sized spot prawns on the rim of a frosty glass of Caesar (aka Canada’s bloody Mary). To really bring the flavor of the sea to this treat, you’ll want to infuse your vodka with a big piece of kombu, and take things over the top by garnishing everything with a pop of spot prawn roe.
Or, sear peeled spot prawns in a hot cast iron until they’ve developed a golden crust to give them a grill-like char. Serve them with this recipe from Food52 for a prawny, homemade aioli made with olive oil that’s been infused with prawn shells. Omit the garlic scapes, since they’re way out of season in the winter; if you like, add in extra raw garlic or even some roasted garlic instead.