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Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

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Serves 6 to 8

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 116

This classic steakhouse appetizer of enormous poached shrimp with a tangy tomato-based sauce emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century, though oysters were the original shellfish of choice. During Prohibition in the 1920s, the dish was actually served in cocktail glasses, which weren't otherwise being used. 

For the cocktail sauce:
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup bottled chili sauce, such as Heinz
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated fresh horseradish
  • Juice of half a medium lemon
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the shrimp:
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 10 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Small bunch of assorted fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, dill, and chives
  • 2 medium lemons, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 Tbs. fine sea salt
  • 40 extra-jumbo (16 to 20 per lb.) or larger shell-on shrimp (preferably wild-caught)
  • Cracked ice or lettuce leaves for serving
Make the cocktail sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Prepare the shrimp:
Tip:
It can be tricky to tell when shell-on shrimp are cooked through, so check them for doneness early on, and don’t rely solely on the cooking time listed.

In a 6-quart pot, combine 6 cups water and the wine; bring to a boil over high heat. Tie the peppercorns, bay leaves, pepper flakes, and herbs in a piece of cheesecloth to make a bundle. Add the bundle to the pot, adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the lemon slices and salt (the broth should be as salty as seawater). Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until just opaque throughout, about 3 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. To check for doneness, cut through the shell and into the middle of one shrimp with a paring knife. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread them in a single layer and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Peel the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Using a paring knife, make a shallow slit down the middle of the back of each shrimp to expose the black vein. Lift out each vein with the tip of the knife and wipe it off with a paper towel.

Serve:

Arrange the shrimp on beds of ice or lettuce leaves in cocktail glasses and serve with the cocktail sauce on the side.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce may be made up to 2 weeks ahead. The shrimp may be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 160; Fat (g): fat g 2; Fat Calories (kcal): 20; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 1; Protein (g): protein g 24; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 11; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 800; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 170; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I had been using a cocktail recipe that I thought was the best until I tried this one. I also cooked the shrimp according to the recipe and it was the hit of my party. I had more people ask me for the recipe. Delicious!

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