Beetlejuice may be the ghost with the most, but Delia can sure throw a party. It ain’t a shindig until the shrimp cocktail is served. Take my advice, however, and share your feast with your ghostly guests rather than make them angry; your shrimp cocktail will thank you.
While it is easy to find cooked shrimp and jars of cocktail sauce at the store, there’s something magical about a proper shrimp boil and fresh cocktail sauce.
court bouillon, or use a seafood boil (Old Bay, Zatarain’s, etc.)
1 lb. uncooked jumbo shrimp (shell-on and de-veined)
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp fresh or store-bought horseradish, grated
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
the juice of one large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- Stock pot or a large cooking pot
- In a large pot, bring to a rolling boil 2 quarts of water and about 1/4 cup of your favorite shrimp/seafood boil. If you want a traditional court bouillon, see the directions in the Dissection below.
- Carefully drop your shrimp into the boil and turn off the heat. The water is hot enough to poach the shrimp at this point.
- Remove the shrimp when the shells turn pink, the flesh is solid white, and they begin to curl. This is about 3-5 minutes depending on their size.
- Allow the shrimp to cool to room temperature (or refrigerate them if you like) and then peel the shells off. It is to your style of presentation if you want to keep the tails on or not.
- While the shrimp are cooling, prepare the cocktail sauce by mixing the ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Chill in your refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve either on one large bowl with the sauce in the bowl and the shrimp hooked along the edge, or provide individual cocktail glasses for each guest with sauce in the glass and shrimp around the edge.
I prefer to cook the shrimp in their shells and then remove the shells after cooking rather than peeling them before cooking. First, this brings a lot more flavor to the boil. If you’ve ever made stock, you know what I mean. Secondly, the shells turn from brownish-gray to pink indicating that the shrimp are fully cooked. Third, the shells are easier to remove, in my opinion, after cooking, because the shrimp shrink and curl up. I usually buy frozen shrimp that are de-veined with the shells still on but split. This marries the flavor of the shells with the convenience of cleaner, easier-to-peel shrimp.
If you do choose to peel the shrimp first, trust me when I say you should toss the shells into your boil so that you get all the flavor you can into the shrimp.
A court bouillon is a French term for a broth used to poach food, usually seafood. It can be anything from salted water to a mixture of water, wine, lemon juice, and spices. A standard version uses mirepoix (which is one medium onion, one carrot, and one celery stalk, all roughly chopped), along with the juice of one lemon, and a couple bay leaves. You would bring that to a rolling boil then let it simmer for about 30 minutes before you add the shrimp.
While a court bouillon is the traditional way to poach shrimp for a cocktail, being a low-country boy at heart, I personally prefer a good ol’ shrimp boil like Old Bay. The point is to give the shrimp some flavor and not just boil in plain water.
Regarding the cocktail sauce, I know some people like to add hot sauce to their cocktail sauce. That is cheating to my mind in order to cover up for not using good horseradish or not enough. Most stores sell jars or tubes of grated horseradish and they are quite effective on their own without peppery assistance. Feel free to kick it up a notch if you really must.
Finally, to use fresh or frozen shrimp? Frankly, unless you are catching the shrimp yourself, the shrimp were sold to you frozen. If your fishmonger sells you “fresh” shrimp, they are really thawed previously frozen shrimp. You can thaw your shrimp at home before cooking, but tossing in frozen shrimp adds only a few seconds of cooking time in boiling water, versus spending hours properly thawing your shrimp.
Bubba Gump might like his shrimp prepared many different ways, and I admit I do as well, but I always prefer a simple yet fresh Shrimp Cocktail. Like Lydia, Delia, and the gang, it makes me wanna get up and dance! Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch! Daylight come and me wan’ go hoooooome!