Make it a party with these raw-bar recipes for the holidays

Buying, storing and shucking oysters

When shopping for oysters at markets like Whole Foods, Dekalb Farmers Market or Buford Highway Farmers Market, first check the label for the location and date harvested. Fresh, live oysters should never be open (or at the very least, close immediately if tapped) and should feel heavy and full in your hand, never hollow. Store unopened oysters cold but never in water. You can store live oysters in a picnic cooler between two loose beds of ice for a day or so before a party. Otherwise, store oysters in the refrigerator in an open container covered with a damp towel for up to five days.

Do not shuck and ice oysters more than an hour or two before serving. Cold oysters are always safer, easier to shuck, and have better flavor and texture. There are plenty of instructions for shucking oysters online, including videos and tips on essential oyster equipment, such as knives and gloves.

One of the best resources is Island Creek Oysters, which has its own farm in Duxbury Bay, Mass., and offers oysters by the bag and in seafood packages such as the handy "Raw Bar in a Box":

Slurping and sipping

Many people love to chug oysters with cocktail sauce and crackers. But to savor the complex flavors of different varieties — that can range beyond briny and buttery into realms of yeasty, brassy and lemony — try slurping oysters straight from the half-shell, chew a bit, and see what happens to your taste buds.

As for what to drink with oysters, go for light bubbly beers, like pilsners, light white wines, or bright sparklers like champagne, cava or prosecco. That said, an oyster stout can be a bold flavor treat.

There’s no doubt, raw oysters have been big around Atlanta for a while now, with hot spots such as the bar at Kimball House in Decatur making happy hour the time to slurp and sip and be social.

What about bringing that sort of scene home for the holidays? We’ll admit, it won’t be as cheap as cheese and crackers. And, yes, someone will need to do the shucking. But it is the season to splurge. Plus, you can forget about serving fancy cocktails. Oysters and other raw bar favorites are happiest with bubbly and beer.

With that in mind, we asked Atlanta chef Eli Kirshtein of The Luminary at Krog Street Market to help us create a fun and easy raw bar party suitable for casual holiday entertaining or other special occasions.

Kirshtein calls his restaurant a French American brasserie, and features a raw bar at the center of the dining room, with a daily selection of oysters, clams, peel-and-eat shrimp and seafood dishes such mussels escabeche and scallop crudo.

“The staples for me are always going to be oysters and shrimp cocktail,” Kirshtein said. “Those are the two things most people look for at a raw-bar party. Going from there, any kind of crab, such as king crab or snow crab claws. Steamed and chilled mussels are easy, too.”

For the centerpiece of our party, Kirshtein arranged a mixed seafood platter on ice with a variety of oysters, including Maine Belon, Massachusetts Lady Chatterly, Washington Totten Inlet and Kumamoto, and Virginia Little Bitches, served with sauces and accompaniments.

“A good start for the oysters is to get an East Coast and a West Coast variety,” Kirshtein said. “But you can always do Southern oysters. Don’t hate on them. There are really good ones, with farm-raised varieties from the Gulf and Georgia and South Carolina.”

Also on the platter: Georgia white shrimp, Prince Edward Island mussels, Sapelo Island clams, snow crab claws, and University of Georgia sturgeon caviar. Kirshtein offered a variety of seafood crudo, too, which can be as simple as sushi-grade fish sliced razor-thin and dashed with olive oil, lemon and sea salt.

“With the crudo, take the nicest raw fish you can find and add whatever flavors you like with it,” Kirshtein said. “You could go Asian with soy sauce or Mediterranean with olives or French with creme fresh. I like using caviar as a topping because it’s a nice luxury.”

Beyond the seafood platter, Kirshtein offered three recipes for easy seafood hors d’oeuvres, including Pickled Shrimp Wraps With Celery Root Remoulade, which is a personal favorite.

“I love lettuce wraps for a party,” Kirshtein said. “It’s always a crowd-pleaser and it makes you feel healthy. Our pickled shrimp recipe is pretty simple Southern-style. The celery root remoulade is a classic old school French thing. Somehow they go really well together.”

Read on for more raw-bar recipes and advice on buying, keeping and serving oysters.


These cold seafood recipes from Atlanta chef Eli Kirshtein of The Luminary are great additions to holiday entertaining as part of an iced raw-bar feast with oysters. You can easily cut the shrimp recipe in half for a smaller crowd and up the other recipes for a larger crowd.

Pickled Shrimp Wraps With Celery Root Remoulade

Simple and Southern-style pickled shrimp meets old school French celery root remoulade in a lettuce wrap for a new classic crowd-pleaser.

60 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning

2 cups olive oil

3/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup chopped parsley

10 bay leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

3 ground allspice berries

1 medium onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

Bibb lettuce, for wraps

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with equal parts water and ice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the Cajun seasoning. Add the shrimp, turn the heat to low and allow to cook to a firm pink, about 2 minutes. Strain and quickly cool shrimp in the ice bath. Drain and reserve. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, parsley, bay leaves, salt and spices. Add cooled shrimp to the bowl with the sliced onion and garlic. Stir. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. May be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

To serve: Arrange shrimp in Bibb lettuce leaves as a wrap and top with celery root remoulade. Or divide and simply serve some of the shrimp with toothpicks as an easy hors d’oeuvre.

Makes: 60 shrimp, or approximately 12 servings of shrimp wraps

Per serving: 213 calories (percent of calories from fat, 78), 8 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 19 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 53 milligrams cholesterol, 660 milligrams sodium.

Celery Root Remoulade

3 medium celery roots, peeled and julienned

3 3/4 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons pepper

3/4 cup Dijon mustard

9 tablespoons hot water

3/4 cup canola oil

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons fines herbes, finely chopped

1 tablespoon gherkins, minced

1 tablespoon drained capers, minced

In a large bowl, toss the celery root with lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine the mustard and hot water. Add the oil slowly to make an emulsion. Add the vinegar. Fold in the fines herbes, gherkins and capers and toss with the celery root.

Makes: 1 quart

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 31 calories (percent of calories from fat, 87), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 168 milligrams sodium.

Snapper Tartare

This flavorful fish dish could also be made with cobia or hamachi tuna. It’s lightly dressed, seasoned and served ice-cold with crackers.

1 pound snapper, skinned and pin-boned, diced small

1/4 cup good quality soy sauce, such as Bourbon Barrel brand

1 teaspoon Tabasco

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup cucumber, diced small

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon minced shallot or sweet onion

1 ounce smoked salmon roe, optional

In a small bowl, combine the soy, Tabasco, lime and lemon and set aside. Right before serving, fold the cucumber, shallot, chives, tarragon and parsley into the snapper. Season to taste with the soy mixture, and garnish with roe, if using.

Serve very cold with toast points or crackers.

Serve: 4

Per serving: 131 calories (percent of calories from fat, 11), 25 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 1,141 milligrams sodium.

Peeky Toe Crab Salad

Use any high-salinity crab meat for this classic flavor combination of celery, green apple and herbs. Serve with crackers or crudités at a party. But if you want to experiment, add some bread crumbs and make mini crab cakes.

1 pound Peeky Toe Crab or another fresh crab meat, picked and cleaned

2 tablespoons diced green apple

2 tablespoons diced celery

2 tablespoons chervil, chopped

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

1 tablespoon ground celery seed

1 tablespoon ground coriander seed, ground into a powder

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise

Salt and black pepper to taste

Celery leaves for garnish

Combine the apple, celery, herbs, spices, lemon juice and zest. Fold in just enough mayo to bind it lightly. Carefully fold the crab into the mixture and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with celery leaves and more green apple.

Serve cold with toast points or crackers

Serves: 4

Per serving: 226 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 24 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 106 milligrams cholesterol, 496 milligrams sodium.

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