January 23rd, 2008
Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
Last modified 7/27/08
Shrimp Cocktail is an appetizer that is simple to make but highly rewarding. Yet there are some gawd awful shrimp cocktails out there. Take for example the prepared ones you see at the grocery store in the seafood isle. Shrimp neatly arranged in a perfect ring, but tasteless, rubbery, overcooked, and the sauce is artificially red and bland at best. Only if looks could kill. Then there is the frozen shrimp at the Chinese buffet...piled high on your plate you think that it's going to be better than the greasy beef broccoli but, that too, turns out to be a major sodium bomb. I wanted to resurrect this tasty grub, because when done right it is definitely something special.
Shrimp come in a variety of sizes and types. I am in favor of the 16~20 count for this particular application. I want substance you know. If you are not sure what "count” means, it simply tells you how many shrimp there are in a pound, which is a clue to how big the individual shrimp are. The lower the count, the bigger the shrimp and vice versa. There is no need to deshell the shrimp when you go with this size. Peeling is part of the eating ritual. Besides shrimp tastes better when cooked with the shell, which holds a tremendous amount of flavor. It is not necessary that you devein the shrimp before eating, however, I find that when you are working with the smaller counts (bigger shrimp that is) that black schmegma can be difficult to ignore. See the how to on deveining shrimp for easy to follow instructions. Shrimp is highly perishable. Fresh shrimp should ideally be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Select firm shrimp with a mild scent, a pungent smell is a sure tell sign that its started to head south.
*Original recipe adapted from Food Network TV show Good Eats by Alton Brown.
Best Shrimp Cocktail for Two
1 pound of deveined tiger shrimp (16~20 count*)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Old Bay seasoning
Brine for the shrimp
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups ice
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
½ can (14½ ounce) diced tomatoes, drained
¼ cup prepared chili sauce
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
How to Make Shrimp Cocktail
- Mix brine ingredients in a bowl and deveined shrimp. Wrap, refrigerate for 15~20 minutes. This is the perfect time to get started on the cocktail sauce.
- Mix drained tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and salt in food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Preheat your oven broiler for 5 minutes with the broiler pan in place (if you have misplaced the broiler pan you can use a baking sheet - it seems every apartment I've ever rented was without one). Remove shrimp from brine, drain and rinse with cold water. Be sure the water is COLD or you will start to cook the shrimp. Dry on paper towels. Transfer shrimp to a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil and Old Bay seasoning.
- Move shrimp to your hot pan and immediately return to broiler. After 2 1/2 minutes, turn shrimp and broil for another minute and a half. Remove from heat and transfer to a cold baking sheet. Refrigerate immediately and let shrimp chill completely. I generally stick mine in the freezer to speed up the process, flipping the shrimp halfway through, about 5 minutes on each side. Just don't forget to set your timer or all of your efforts will have been wasted. If you can stand to wait 20 minutes, cool in refrigerator.
- Serve with cocktail sauce. Peel the shell, but leave the tail on (this makes them easier to handle) and dip in sauce.
*If you use smaller shrimp (i.e. larger count) you may not need to cook as long. For instance, if using 21~25 count broil on first side for 2 minutes and 1 minute on the other.