Tips For Creating A Great Raw Bar For Your Next Party

Raw bars are notorious for being the top destination when you want to have raw, fresh seafood. Although most raw bars are best known for shellfish, there are usually many different options to choose from. In fact, raw bars are such a popular dining option many people are choosing to set up raw bars at home for entertaining. If you've been thinking about creating your first raw bar for a party you're hosting, it's important to have your recipes in order. Here are two great dishes to consider when you're planning out your menu.

Oysters on the Half Shell

If you're hosting a raw bar, an oyster bar is a must-have component. Serving oysters on the half shell is a great way to highlight the rich, briny flavor of the oysters by pairing them with a bright, fresh sauce. If you are new to shucking oysters, though, be warned – it's going to take you some time to get things ready.

  • Making the Oysters Rinse the oysters under cold running water to flush away any residual sand and dirt. Then, cover the shell edges with a thick towel to protect your hands from getting cut or scratched as you work.

    Hold the shell firmly in one hand, then place a knife between the edges of the shell halves. Pry just enough to expose the contents of the oyster, draining the brine that's inside the shell into a small bowl. Cut around the edge of the muscle where it meets the upper shell to separate the top shell completely. Then, pull the top shell off and discard it. Run your knife underneath the oyster where it attaches to the bottom shell, too. This separates the shell from the oyster. Don't remove the oyster, though. You just want it detached to make it easy to eat.

    When you're setting up the bar itself, consider a display tray for the oysters that allows you to create a layer of ice underneath. That's important, because you have to keep the oysters cold for them to be safe to eat. Place each lower shell with the oyster onto the tray, then top it with a little bit of the brine you reserved. If you're worried about this task, call restaurants that serve oysters, like Flora-Bama, and see if you can set up a catering type situation with them,
  • Making the Sauce Choose a quality rice wine vinegar and measure out about a cup. Blend it with a minced shallot, about a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger, a pinch of chopped fresh cilantro and a medium cucumber, diced small. Refrigerate the mixture for a couple of hours, then serve it alongside the oysters.

Homemade Ceviche

Although ceviche was once thought to be a dish only served in high-end restaurants, it's an easy dish to prepare at home. If you want to wow your guests and make something that nobody will forget, this is a great place to start.

  • Choose Your Fish Visit your local fishmonger to explore your fish options. You'll want a white fish that's firm – something like grouper, sea bass or flounder. Ask the fishmonger what's freshest, because you'll need something that's as fresh as you can find. And, make life easier by having your fishmonger remove the skin and bones for you.

    About two pounds of fish is a good place to start. Cut the fish into half-inch dices. Seed and dice a Serrano chili or a jalapeno pepper, mince a half of a medium red onion, then add a cup or so of seeded, chopped tomatoes and some fresh chopped cilantro. Combine all of these ingredients, then top them with a half-cup each of lime and lemon juice. Season it all with about two or three teaspoons of salt and a bit of your favorite hot sauce. Cover it and store it in the refrigerator, stirring every half hour or so for a couple of hours. It'll turn opaque and white when it's ready to serve.

Don't let the idea of creating a raw bar with ceviche and an oyster bar intimidate you. With these recipes, you'll create a party spread that's sure to impress all of your friends.