How you doin’? A shrimp cocktail was ubiquitous on many upscale restaurant menus in LA for years and has kind of fallen out of favor. Why? I can’t tell you, but I still make it at home and love it today as much as I did years ago. Before I knew much about dining out, I knew that if they brought shrimp cocktails to the table as an appetizer, we were eating at a 'fancy joint’. It is a very easy dish to make, but first a little history.
This dish of cooked seafood with a piquant sauce of some kind is really of ancient origin and many varieties exist. Oyster, crab, lobster or shrimp dishes of this kind were popularized in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Some imagine this custom of serving of the food in cocktail glasses had something to do with the ban on alcohol during the prohibition era in the United States in the 1920’s. I’m not so sure about that.
The invention of the Prawn Cocktail is taken by a British television chef, Fanny Cradock in the 1960s in the United Kingdom. However, it is more likely that Cradock just popularized her version of an established dish that was not well known until then in Britain.
There was even a book dedicated to this famous dish--The Prawn Cocktail Years (Hopkinson and Bareha). It was once considered to be a part of the "Great British Meal" which consisted of Prawn Cocktail, followed by Steak Garni with Chips and Black Forest Gateau for dessert. Ridiculed by some, many still think this dinner is still something very special indeed.
While many think the quality of the Shrimp Cocktail is gauged by the quality of the sauce, much attention most go into the cooking of the shrimp itself and the flavor of the poaching liquid.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Additional: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
For the poaching liquid
4 quarts cold water
1/4 onion, sliced
1/2 lemon, outer skin removed
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon Old Bay® seasoning
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
For the spicy cocktail sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/3 cup prepared horseradish (more if you like Indianapolis spicy)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
2 pounds tail-on, de-veined jumbo shrimp (21/25)
ChefSecret: Give the Shrimp Cocktail the royal Hollywood treatment. Coat the rim of martini glasses with lemon juice and celery salt. Line the bottom of each glass with one medium size romaine lettuce leaf filled with chopped celery. Put a splash of cocktail sauce over the celery and line the edge of the glass with 5-jumbo shrimp (about 3 to 4 ounces). Then, top with another splash of cocktail sauce. The shrimp draped over the edge of the glass will resemble a Busby Berkeley movie with synchronized swimmers from an old Hollywood musical number--Crustaceans on Parade, which when you think about it, sounds more important than just a Shrimp Cocktail. Oh, very important, don’t forget the little oyster crackers. Left over sauce makes a great Bloody Mary, too.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: This morning I saw my neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought the cat understood her. I thought the confinement was driving her crazy. I came into my house and told my dog… we both laughed a lot.
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