Holiday Entertaining

By Chef Ted Reader
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. This time brings festive celebrations of all sorts, whether you celebrate Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa. Whatever your celebration, it just seems once December rolls around folks want to party a little more.
I know I do! 🙂

Even if you don’t have a specific celebration, the season is full of reasons to relax and just enjoy smiles on kids’ faces and a warm glow in your heart… hopefully. It really is a super time of the year and nothing says holiday season like delicious foods.

I know it can get crazy with all the hustle and bustle but for me, it’s just about spending quality time with family and friends. I try and do that all the year through because to me it’s always just about getting outside in my backyard.

Casa BBQ, as I like to call it, is always open. It doesn’t matter when you come over, the party is always outside.

Nobody likes to face that moment when you gotta give up and go inside. Actually, I never do, but then it’s my job, and when you light up 10 or 12 barbecues it’s not that cold. But not everybody has 12 grills so let’s talk about that kitchen on fire thing. Food is my life and you’re just as likely to find me stirring something on the back of my stove as you find me with my head in the smoker out back.

They’re saying (whoever they are), it’s gonna be a cold winter this year, so I’m thinking comforting, rib-sticking good food. I’m thinking let’s call a few guys and gals and have a feast. Let’s make it tasty and over the top good. Let’s make it beer-friendly above all. Let’s make it easy and entertaining.

NOW JUST A NOTE: This is my way to fire it up, especially when the weather is cool and crisp. You know, crisp like an apple but not as sweet! More of a bite on the ass is what I think of the cold.

But hey!

I live with it because it’s what I do and I love it. You always gotta remember there is heat coming from the grill or the smoker so really it isn’t that cold in the ‘Grilling Zone’. Besides, a few years ago I invested in one of those patio heaters. Awesome purchase! Keeps ya toasty warm.

Now for me, a party is all about the food. Yes, I like my beverages. I like to believe it is the food that will make the festive event most memorable. At the same time, you don’t want to spend your time running from kitchen to barbecue to kitchen to guest. Making it tasty and making it pretty easy makes it possible for you to have a pretty good time at your own party. I am the king of the easy party.

It’s all about the planning!

For this holiday season, I thought of some fun entertaining appetizer recipes to get that party started. A little bit of decadence too, with the use of a variety of shellfish. For me this season will include: Grilled Crab, Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Charbroiled Oysters with Crawfish Butter and Crispy Coated Grilled Sea Salt ‘N Malt Vinegar Shrimp.

I love a delicious party and these recipes will make you the rock star of your party!

Cheers and happy holidays!


Charbroiled Oyster With Crayfish Butter

Serves 4


What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1 oyster knife
  • 12 medium-sized fresh oysters
  • 24 pieces fully cooked crawfish tail meat, about 1 cup (NOTE: you can find frozen crawfish meat in specialty food and seafood stores. If you cannot find crawfish meat you could always use crabmeat or lobster meat. Both are equally as delicious)
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • splash pilsner
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives


  1. Pour the kosher salt into a shallow tray or pan. This will keep your oysters level while you top them with garlic butter.
  2. Using an oyster knife shuck the oysters and place the oysters in shell onto the salt. Top each oyster with 2 crawfish tails. Set aside refrigerated.
  3. Combine melted butter and garlic and add a splash of pilsner beer.
  4. Spoon garlic butter mixture over the top of each of the chilled crawfish topped oysters. Refrigerate to harden.
  5. In a bowl combine parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and chives. Mix and
    set aside.
  6. Fire up your grill to high, about 500+°F.
  7. Place garlic butter topped crawfish oysters (shell side down) and grill for about 8-10 minutes or until the butter starts to bubble and sputter on the shells.
  8. Top each bubbling oyster with a tablespoon of the parmesan-breadcrumb mixture.
  9. Close grill lid and continue to cook until the topping is crispy and golden brown, about 3-5 more minutes.
  10. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Hot Spinach Artichoke & Crab Dip

Serves 4-8


What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tin artichoke hearts, approximately 6 hearts
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled and cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 plump cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 hot red chili pepper, finely diced
  • 6 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 8 oz. lump crab meat
  • ½ cup ranch dressing
  • 1 package 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup grated asiago cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    to taste
  • 1 loaf rustic bread


  1. Fire up your grill to medium-high, approximately 450°F. Grill artichoke hearts and onion wedges for 10-15 minutes turning frequently until lightly charred and tender.
  2. Remove from grill, cool and coarsely chop – Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over your hot grill.
  4. Add the garlic, red chili pepper, grilled artichokes and onions.
  5. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring over high heat. Add in the spinach and continue to sauté for 1 or 2 more minutes until the spinach is wilted and tender.
  6. Add the crab meat, stir, add the ranch dressing, reduce heat to medium-low and gently stir until the dressing begins to bubble.
  7. Add cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago cheese and continue to stir until all is incorporated, hot ‘n creamy.
  8. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Set aside, keeping warm.
  10. Grill rustic bread until golden brown and crisp. Tear into chunks.
  11. Serve immediately with hot spinach artichoke and crab dip.

Sea Salt 'N Malt Vinegar Shrimp

Serves 4


Tartar Sauce Dunk

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1 medium crispy crunchy dill pickle, shredded and squeezed of excess liquid (about a ¼ cup)
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh chives or green onion 1 tbsp. capers, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mayonnaise, dill pickle, lemon juice, shallot, green onion, capers and horseradish and season to taste with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Cover and refrigerate to keep cold.

Sea Salt ‘N Malt Vinegar Shrimp

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb. fresh jumbo shrimp, size: approximately 10-12 pieces per lb. tail on, peeled & deveined
    If using frozen shrimp, thaw in refrigerator overnight prior to use
  • 2 tbsp. malt vinegar
  • splash pilsner beer
  • pinch ground sea salt
  • 1 bag salt & vinegar flavored potato chips approximately 225 g bag
  • ½ cup chopped fresh chives or green onion


  1. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place shrimp in a large bowl. Add the malt vinegar, a splash of pilsner beer and a pinch of sea salt, mix to evenly coat.
  3. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes while you fire up your grill.
  4. Preheat your grill to medium-high, approximately 450°F.
  5. Take the bag of salt and vinegar chips and crush them to make small crumbs.
  6. Pour the chip crumbs into a medium bowl and add chopped fresh chives. Set aside.
  7. Remove shrimp from marinade.
  8. Toss onto the grill and grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side until the shrimp are just firm to the touch and opaque in colour. Give the shrimp a spritz of some more pilsner and malt vinegar to add a burst of flavour.
  9. Remove shrimp from grill and set aside allowing to cool for one to two minutes.
  10. While holding a grilled shrimp by the tail (one at a time) dunk the shrimp into the tartar sauce to entirely coat the shrimp up to the shell of the tail.
  11. Next lay the tartar sauce-dunked shrimp into the bed of crushed potato chips and chives. Coat the shrimp in the crushed chip mixture to fully coat. Set aside.
  12. Repeat with remaining shrimp and serve immediately.