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Scandinavian Seafood Party

by Lou Seibert Pappas

For a spectacular buffet party to entertain friends or celebrate an occasion, a Scandinavian seafood party offers a gala treat. This alluring party table features chilled and pickled seafood for a dazzling and festive spread for most any season. The outdoor seafood bars in Europe are inspiration for this party theme. In Paris, Rome, and Brussels, restaurants set out iced displays at the street-side doorways to entice diners to savor a repast in their restaurant.

You may prepare the menu completely in advance so you may present it good-naturedly at the last minute. Scale your menu selections to your available time and number of guests. Eliminate the more time-consuming but dramatic fish pirog if your cooking time span is minimal. The fish with potato scales is quicker for a small occasion. Buy specialty breads or make your own. Purchase the herring if you plan to serve it. The menu works equally well as an elegant appetizer party by eliminating the entree. Then a cheese and fruit tray is an optional added bonus.

For beverages, champagne is sublime, such as Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley NV, Gloria Ferrer Brut Sonoma County NV, Domaine Carneros Brut Carneros, 1993 J Sparkling Wine, or Mumm Cuvee Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV. Nest the champagne in an iced tub. Another option is a premium chardonnay such as Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Alexander Valley 1995, De Loach Chardonnay Russian River Valley, or Mueller Chardonnay Russian River Valley 1995.

Or consider iced vodka or aquavit encased in a block of ice. It is easy to achieve by placing the bottle of liqueur in an empty milk carton and filling the carton with water up to the bottle neck. Then store it in the freezer for one day. After the water is frozen, simply peel off the carton and the bottle is sealed in a block of ice. When serving, place it on a tray to catch the water drips.

Pickled Halibut and Shrimp
Makes 16 appetizer servings

2 pound chunk halibut
1/2 pound large shrimp
2 slices lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole mixed pickling spices
1 small sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup sugar

Place the halibut and shrimp in a large saucepan and cover with water. Combine lemon slices, salt, bay leaf, and pickling spices in a cheesecloth bag or place in a tea ball and add to the pan. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish barely flakes with a fork. Drain off the stock and let the fish cool. Remove the skin and bones. Break the fish along its natural seams into 1 to 2-inch chunks. Peel and devein the shrimp. Alternate the fish, shrimp, and onion rings in a 1 1/2 quart jar or crock. Combine vinegar, wine, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a jar with halibut and shrimp so that the fish is covered with liquid. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 days to allow the flavors to permeate.

Note: Fresh mussels are excellent poached and pickled in this same fashion, letting them replace both the halibut and shrimp. Time their cooking to 5 to 6 minutes, or just until the shells open and the mussels turn a bright coral color.

Caviar Torte
makes 8 servings

6 eggs, hard-cooked and chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 green onions, chopped
12 ounces light-style cream cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
Dash hot pepper seasoning
1 jar (2 to 3 ounce) caviar
Parsley sprigs
Crisp flatbread or sesame crackers

Mix together the eggs, mayonnaise, yogurt, and mustard and spread in a straight-sided glass bowl, 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with green onions. Beat the cream cheese with sour cream and pepper seasoning until creamy and spread over the onions. Top with caviar, cover, and chill. To serve, circle the bowl with parsley sprigs and pass crackers.

Cucumbers in Dill
makes 12 servings

3 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1//4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

Place the cucumbers in a deep bowl. Mix together the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, dill, pepper, and parsley and pour over the cucumbers. Mix well, cover, and chill for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Pickled Beets
makes about 1 pint

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 whole cloves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 cups sliced cooked or drained canned beets
1 sweet red onion, sliced and separated into rings

Combine the sugar, mustard, salt, cloves, garlic, vinegar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over the beets and onion rings. Cover and chill.

Finnish Salmon Pirog
makes 12 servings

3 pounds salmon fillets
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound cultivated brown mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups cooked cracked wheat or bulghur
Rich Brioche Dough: follows
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
Sour cream and caviar (optional)

In a large skillet over medium high heat, sautネ the salmon fillets in 1 tablespoon of the butter for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side; sprinkle with lemon juice and salt and set aside. Sautネ the mushrooms and onion in 1 tablespoon butter, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter over cracked wheat and toss.

Preheat the oven to 375ェ. For free-form fish pastries, divide the Rich Brioche Dough in half. Roll out one half and cut the dough into 2 fish shapes, each about 14 inches long, 5 inches across the head, and 9 inches wide at the tail. Place one fish-shaped piece of dough on a buttered baking sheet. Layer with half the cracked wheat, mushroom mixture, parsley, and salmon. Cover with the other fish-shaped piece of dough, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat the procedure to make a second fish from the remaining ingredients. With scissors, turn each pastry to a neat fish shape and snip the top crust in 2 to 3 rows to make scales. With a knife, make a slit for a mouth and eye and make markings on the tail and fins. Brush pastries with the remaining melted butter. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pastries are nicely browned. Garnish with parsley and serve warm or cold with sour cream and caviar, if desired.

Rich Brioche Dough: Sprinkle 1 package active dry yeast into 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl and let stand until yeast is dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, and beat well. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Add 1/2 cup soft butter and beat until well blended. Gradually add 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour and beat hard for 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down the dough and chill half an hour or longer, if desired, before using.

Roast Mahi Mahi with Potato Scales
makes 4 servings

4 to 6 small 1-inch red or Yukon gold potatoes, sliced wafer thin
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 4-ounce mahi mahi fillets, or other firm fish fillets about 3/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill or tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill or tarragon
2 tablespoons minced chives
Watercress or arugula for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375ェ. Scatter the potatoes on a lightly oiled baking sheet, brush the top with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Turn up the oven temperature to 450ェ. Arrange the fish on a broiler pan, season with salt and pepper, lemon zest and herbs, and cover the top of each with overlapping slices of potato. Roast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Sprinkle with chives. Serve with a garnish of watercress or arugula.

Mazarin Tarts
makes about 40 tiny tarts

1 can (8 ounces) almond paste
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Unbaked Tart Shells: recipe follows
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375ェ. In a large bowl, beat the almond paste with eggs and sugar until smooth. Mix in the melted butter and almond extract. Fill Unbaked Tart Shells with almond mixture, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar. Makes about 40 tiny tarts.

Unbaked Tart Shells: Mix together 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons soft butter, 6 tablespoons sugar, and 3 cups all-purpose flour until crumbly. Add 2 eggs and beat until smooth. Pat into a ball. Pinch off pieces of dough and pat into 2 inch tart pans, pressing against the bottoms and sides.

Marzipan Chocolate Wafers
makes about 2 dozen wafers

1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup almond paste
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Marzipan Filling: follows
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350ェ. Beat 1/3 cup butter and almond paste until creamy, then beat in sugar and egg yolk. Mix in the flour to make a smooth dough. On a lightly floured board, roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out with a 1 1/2-inch round scalloped cutter. Place rounds on a buttered baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool.

With fingertips or a spatula, spread Marzipan Filling on the bottom of wafers. Melt chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter together and stir to blend. Spread with a spatula over the marzipan filling. Place wafers in a single layer on a baking sheet and chill until set. Store in a covered container.

Marzipan Filling: Beat together 1/2 cup almond paste and 2 tablespoons butter. Mix in 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon light corn syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and beat until smooth.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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