The bounty of the ocean is the perfect starring player for a buffet dinner. From a high-stakes Las Vegas-inspired menu to an Italian-themed feast that draws on hundreds of years of tradition, a seafood buffet is a delicious and fun way for friends and family to explore new foods and different cultures. Get your kids involved in choosing your buffet theme, and let them help you with simpler preparation tasks such as mixing several types of nuts into a serving bowl or tearing fresh herbs into tiny pieces.
The United States of Seafood
Different regions throughout the United States have different approaches to seafood: the hearty dishes of New England, the snap and spice of New Orleans seafood, the natural approach of Alaskan fisheries, and the laid-back Asian-inspired cuisine of California seafood chefs. Create a buffet that highlights unique seafood dishes from across the United States. New England clam chowder, Alaskan smoked salmon, Louisiana shrimp and sausage gumbo, and California roll sushi are ideas that showcase seafood and can be made in large batches for a crowd-pleasing buffet. Steamed rice, boiled red potatoes, a large tossed green salad with a creamy dressing, and crusty bread complement almost any seafood entree.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes
Traditionally, Italian Catholics refrain from eating meat on Christmas Eve, returning home from mass for a seafood dinner called "The Feast of the Seven Fishes." An Italian seafood buffet can be a delicious way to commemorate any holiday, though. Crab-stuffed mushrooms; shrimp tossed with fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil over pasta; and a tomato-based seafood soup called cioppino are all feasts for the senses, and are relatively easy to whip up in large batches. For the adventurous, consider serving baccala, or salted cod, available online at specialty Italian groceries. Small children may be picky when it comes to a seafood buffet of unfamiliar flavors, so serve kid-friendly seafood favorites like popcorn shrimp alongside traditional Italian fare. Dip fish strips in ranch dressing then in breadcrumbs and cook in oil until crispy for a new twist on the standard kids' fish sticks. Garlic bread, roasted vegetables, and the traditional Italian Christmas cake of panettone complete the fish-filled feast.
Summertime is the ideal time for a buffet dinner with friends, but the usual burgers and hotdogs can get repetitive. Throw some shrimp or scallops on the grill, either on skewers or in tin-foil packages, with vegetables, a dash of olive oil, and some fresh herbs. Serve cooked, peeled shrimp cold with a variety of salad fixings for a cool and refreshing seafood salad bar. A fresh South-American ceviche, in which raw seafood like red snapper, abalone, or shrimp is tossed with fresh lemon and lime juice, is an unexpected treat on a hot summer day. Avoid giving raw shellfish to toddlers, who are more susceptible to potential food poisoning. With fresh fruit and rice pilaf sides and popsicles for dessert, you can beat the heat and bust out of your summertime grilling rut.
A Winning Table
Las Vegas is home to hundreds of seafood buffets, many of which are located inside casinos and gambling halls. Combine a seafood buffet with a friendly night of cards to create a delicious evening of competition and cuisine for your friends and family. Las Vegas buffet favorites such as giant crab legs, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, sushi and oysters are all winning choices. To save on preparation, ask the clerk at your seafood counter to clean and crack the crab for you, and purchase cooked and peeled shrimp. Many markets feature prepared sushi, which makes for one-stop buffet shopping. Serve with plenty of tartar sauce and chili-spiked cocktail sauce, along with bowls of card-table favorites such as pretzels, party snack mix and mixed nuts.
- Food Network: An Italian Christmas with Mario and Giada
- Mangia Bene Pasta: Italian Christmas Eve
- Las Vegas Direct: Las Vegas Top 10 Buffets
- Dream of Italy; Sicilian Seafood Recipes for and Italian Christmas Eve - Feast of Seven Fishes; Toni Lydecker; November 2009
- What's Cooking America; History of Ceviche; Linda Strandley
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