How to make perfect Shrimp Cocktail

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What's it about

Have you ever tried shrimp cocktail? It's easy to prepare and a good spread for parties or the big game. Tender shrimp full of flavor with that perfect combination of zesty, spice and horseradish. With just a squeeze of lemon juice and this is a favorite that will be devoured in just minutes!

Shrimp Cocktail

When I think of a complete Super Bowl party spread, shrimp cocktail always comes to mind. Who doesn’t love shrimp cocktail, it’s an iconic classic American appetizer that can be served any time of year. Some of the family Thanksgivings included shrimp cocktail. Most grocery stores have the sets of shrimp cocktail sitting in plastic trays ready to eat. I understand that we live in a fast paced world, but I just can’t do it. For one, I try to avoid plastics and secondly, we never know how fresh the pre-made shrimp actually is. Shrimp cocktail might look like a lot of work, but it really is simple.

What constitutes a great shrimp cocktail?

The key components of great shrimp cocktail are the product, cooking method and cocktail sauce. I recommend 16-20 sized black tiger shrimp. The 16-20 is a count size meaning that there are approximately 16 – 20 shrimp per pound. This is a good gauge when trying to figure out how much to buy. You can try smaller shrimp like 21-25 or 26-30, but adjust (shorten) the cooking time. I don’t like to use larger shrimp because unless they are fresh caught, they have a texture that works better with grilling or quick roasting.

POACHING THE SHRIMP

Poaching shrimp is tricky and easy at the same time. Shrimp does have the tendency to cook fast. Because it is all lean meat, the meat does seize up quickly. The worst thing is tough, chewy or mealy shrimp. Poaching is a great method because it is a slow cooking technique. However, because shrimp cooks fast, it is a very short process. We start by flavoring the poaching liquid so it resembles a stock. Shrimp shells create flavor when preparing a good poaching liquid. Perfectly poached shrimp should be firm and shiny with a nice crispness in texture when eating.

STEP 1

Wash shrimp well. Peel the shrimp leaving the tails intact. Reserve shells for poaching liquid.

STEP 2

Devein shrimp then set aside. Ignore the tail-less shrimp in the photo. I had a junior prep cook that couldn’t follow instructions. Good thing I caught it before the whole batch was done. We leave the tail on for shrimp cocktail so you have something to grab while dipping.

top view of a knife deveining raw shrimp on a wooden board

STEP 3

In a medium sized pot combine reserved shrimp shells, white wine, water, salt, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaf and juice of one lemon. After you have squeezed the juice, cut the lemon in 1/4″ slices and add to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Once it is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Add the green onion stems and herbs (cilantro, parsley or tarragon). You can also use a combination of herbs if you have them. Cook for 10 minutes.

top view of shrimp poaching in shrimp stock

STEP 4

Add the shrimp and cook over heat for 1 minute. Make sure that you stir the shrimp around so they cook evenly. Turn the heat off and leave the shrimp in the pot for 3 minutes.

STEP 5

Prepare ice bath in a medium sized bowl.

STEP 6

Check the shrimp to make sure they are cooked. If still not fully cooked, let them sit in the pot for 1 more minute.

LAST STEP

Fully drain and immediately place the shrimp into the ice bath for 10 minutes. Drain then dry the shrimp and refrigerate until ready to use. I used a lidded pyrex container lined with paper towels to soak up any residual liquid.

top front view of shrimp cocktail in a bowl

CHECK OUR OUR GAME DAY GUACAMOLE RECIPE!

SHRIMP COCKTAIL SAUCE

Cocktail sauce can be a matter of personal taste. I like mine zesty with a lot of horseradish and lemon flavor. Any proper cocktail sauce should have some heat. Feel free to add any type of hot or chili sauce that you like. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust flavor and seasonings as needed. Chill before serving.

Enjoy!

front view of a hand holding a poached shrimp with cocktail sauce

Don’t miss our Game Day Guacamole!

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SUPERBOWL APPETIZERS

Yield: 16 - 20 SERVINGS

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

Have you ever tried shrimp cocktail? It's easy to prepare and a good spread for parties or the big game. Tender shrimp full of flavor with that perfect combination of zesty, spice and horseradish. With just a squeeze of lemon juice and this is a favorite that will be devoured in just minutes!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds 16 -20 shell-on black tiger shrimp
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 sliced lemon plus juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 green onion stems
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, parsley or tarragon stems

COCKTAIL SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons creamy prepared horseradish
  • 1-1/2 cups Heinz ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon to taste
  • salt to taste

Instructions

POACHING THE SHRIMP

  1. Wash shrimp well. Peel the shrimp leaving the tails intact. Reserve shells for poaching liquid.
  2. Devein shrimp then set aside.
  3. In a medium sized pot combine reserved shrimp shells, white wine, water, salt, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaf and juice of one lemon. After you have squeezed the juice, cut the lemon in 1/4" slices and add to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Once it is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Add the green onion stems and herbs (cilantro, parsley or tarragon). You can also use a combination of herbs if you have them. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook over heat for 1 minute. Make sure that you stir the shrimp around so they cook evenly. Turn the heat off and leave the shrimp in the pot for 3 minutes.
  5. Prepare ice bath in a medium sized bowl.
  6. Check the shrimp to make sure they are cooked. If still not fully cooked, let them sit in the pot for 1 more minute.
  7. Fully drain and immediately place the shrimp into the ice bath for 10 minutes. Drain then dry the shrimp and refrigerate until ready to use. I used a lidded pyrex container lined with paper towels to soak up any residual liquid.

COCKTAIL SAUCE

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust flavor and seasonings as needed. Chill before serving.
  2. Enjoy!

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