Ahhh ... shrimp cocktail.
So special. So simple. Well, simple if you don't mind peeling and deveining a few shrimp. And I don't.
If I can't buy fresh shrimp, right off the boat -- impossible to find in Southern Illinois, by the way -- I prefer to buy them individually frozen in the shell.
That's why I choose such large frozen shrimp when cooking for a small group. Fewer shrimp to prep, much easier for me to handle and quite a statement on the plate.
Thaw the shrimp overnight in the fridge or under running water at the last minute. Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl and fill with cold water. Leave the water running just enough to keep it moving in the bowl and the shrimp should thaw in a few minutes.
To prep the shrimp, grasp the little legs and pull them off. Then lift a corner of the shell and peel it off the shrimp. I like to leave the last bit of shell and tail on the shrimp. Using the tail like a little handle makes eating them with your fingers a bit more ... uh ... dignified.
After removing the shell, run the tip of a small, sharp knife down the back of the shrimp and pull the vein out. You don't have to remove the vein, but I'm not so fond of seeing a stripe of digested plankton running down the back of my shrimp. I use a damp paper towel to assist with the process.
To boil shrimp, fill a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Add a generous amount of salt -- 2 to 3 tablespoons -- you know, like the ocean. Bring the water to a boil and add the shrimp. Lower the heat, so when you cover the pot it won't boil over. (Raise your hand if you've ever made that mistake!)
Cook shrimp for a few minutes -- 6 or 7 minutes for big shrimp, less if they are smaller. They should be pink and white striped on the outside and opaque white all the way through when done. Cut one in half, if you can't tell. Do not overcook, or you will be chewing rubbery shrimp and wondering why everyone thinks shrimp are such a treat.
Immerse the shrimp immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain, cover and refrigerate before serving. Chilling the serving dishes is a nice touch too.
Serve with cocktail sauce and/or a lemon wedge -- that's all you need for shrimp cocktail.
If you are a really, really nice person and find yourself making shrimp cocktail for a crowd, you don't have to be a hero too. Serve the shrimp cooked in the shells and let everyone peel his/her own. Pile them on top of a big bowl of crushed ice, with small bowls of cocktail sauce and an extra empty bowl for the shells. More time talking, laughing and peeling = fewer shrimp needed per person.
I used extra jumbo U16, that means 16 shrimp per pound. Big! Two or three bites per shrimp!
The square paisley appetizer plates came from T.J. Maxx. Absolutely perfect for three paisley-shaped shrimp and a tasting spoonful of cocktail sauce. Sometimes the plate chooses the food.
A twisted lemon would have been the obvious garnish for the plate, but not quite so easy to squeeze little drops of juice on the shrimp. I opted for the heftier finger-sized wedge. You've got to think of these things!
Shrimp cocktail was the first course for our dinner that began with the Romaine Lettuce Soup I posted last week.
What do you want to bet that the next post will be the main course?
I wonder what could it be? Oh, wait! I already know.
More recipes for shrimp cocktail from food blogs: