We were brainstorming for a recent dinner party and kept talking about holiday childhood food memories. I kept coming back to shrimp cocktails. I vaguely remember those little bowls of bay shrimp swimming in a pool of cocktail sauce. When I say vaguely I really mean I fondly remember them. This recipe for my super easy shrimp cocktail does not have bay shrimp swimming in a pool of sauce. Instead, it is sort of the sophisticated cousin who went away overseas and came back a big fancy shrimp cocktail.
I quit laying out heavy appetizers before a dinner party as I was tired of leftovers after the main course. We are not leftover people. I usually opt for something lighter such a bowl of warm olives or a small piece of really great cheese with dried fruit or grainy crackers. This super easy shrimp cocktail recipe as made it’s appearance more times than not as it is fun, light and puts a smile on everyone’s face.
I do not use bay shrimp, for one thing, instead, I use either small or medium-sized ones. I have been using the Del Pacifico brand that comes frozen. Both sizes are perfect for the recipe. I like that the fish is fresh, wild, sustainable, and not frozen tasting even though it is frozen. Bonus, it is cleaned. Super easy to get everything together.
Do not boil the shrimp as this will create tough and rubbery pieces of meat. Instead, you are going to poach the shrimp in seasoned water. Super easy and do not be afraid of the word poached. Another tip, I made the recipe using no salt in the poaching water and it was bland. The next few times I added salt and the shrimp as more flavorful. If you are going to cut back on sodium then use a low or no sodium ketchup for the sauce.
The cocktail sauce is about the easiest thing ever to make. Ketchup and horseradish. BOOM! I will say that the brand of ketchup you use does make a difference. I use brands with no corn syrup and my cocktail sauce is more savory. Also, do not use horseradish that has a cream base. I use either fresh or fresh grated in a jar. Another tip, make the sauce at least four hours before serving as the flavors mingle better. I actually prefer it even more if it sits overnight in the fridge.
There you go, a super easy shrimp cocktail party to take your holidays up a notch!
Super Easy Shrimp Cocktail
- 2 pounds shrimp, small or medium
- 10 cups water
- 10 peppercorns
- 1/2 medium-sized lemon – use an organic if you do not peel
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups ketchup
- 3 tablespoons horseradish
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- lemon wedges, garnish
- Defrost shrimp and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Place the 10 cups of water into a large saucepan or a dutch oven, which is what I use. Add the peppercorns, lemon (I squeeze into the water and then add), bay leaves, and kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then add the white wine.
- Turn off the heat and add the shrimp and then cover the pan. Let sit for 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp, and let poach.
- Drain into a colander and immediately rinse with very cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry and place it into a covered container into the refrigerator.
- To make the sauce, combine the ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice. Stir and then taste. If you want a bit more spice, then add more horseradish. Pour the sauce into a covered container and place it into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to blend the flavors. I prefer overnight.
- To serve, remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. Plate as above. Garnish with lemon wedges.