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I have lived in a land-locked state for all of my life, therefore, any kind of fresh seafood is a rare treat. I can vividly recall a trip to the beach as a kid and eating as much seafood as possible because it was such a foreign item on our table. The meal that stuck with me the most from that long ago beach vacation was a dinner of peel-and-eat shrimp. I’m amazed that I didn’t turn as pink as a flamingo because I must have eaten my weight in the sweet crustaceans.
As an adult, shrimp (and fresh oysters) are pretty much my go-to “special occasion” food. And since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought this would be a great opportunity to break down how best to cook and eat the Classic Shrimp Cocktail.
Preparing Shrimp Cocktail
When you are prepping for shrimp cocktail there are a few things to think about: 1 – the type of shrimp to buy and 2 – when are you serving the shrimp cocktail.
When buying shrimp in general, try to buy the best quality you can afford and try to buy from the coast closest to you. We live in the south, so Gulf Coast shrimp are the best for us. I have a friend who makes trips to the coast often and I always put in an order to bring back a big bag of the good stuff for me. We buy frozen shrimp because we’re not on the coast and that is going to be the best quality for us, but if you are lucky enough to live close to the ocean then by all means by the fresh caught shrimp from your local seafood shack (note: typically the “fresh” shrimp you find in the case at the grocery is simply the frozen stuff that they have thawed).
You can make shrimp cocktail a day ahead if you like. It’s a super handy dish that way. Simply store in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.
Thawing & De-veining
You can buy “peeled and deveined” shrimp, but for this instance I recommend you buy something with the shell still on since it helps keep the shrimp moist.
Thaw your shrimp by placing them in a pot in the sink and running a slow stream of cool water over them until they are thawed through – usually 15-20 minutes.
Then, using these handy shell shears or a pair of kitchen shears, cut the back of the shrimp open and remove the vein by rinsing under cold water.
Cooking and Serving
Before you cook the shrimp, make sure that you are ready to STOP cooking them. Have a bowl of ice water at the ready and a large spider (the utensil not the scary bug) to fish them all out of the pot as soon as they are done.
Once your pot of water with the shrimp boil spices, lemon,garlic and salt are ready add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes for medium sized shrimp and maayyyybeee 5 minutes for bigger shrimp. Look for the shrimp to change color and curl into a “C” shape.
YOU DO NOT WANT TO OVERCOOK YOUR SHRIMP. You can always add them back to the pot if you need to.
Once, they are finished cooking transfer them immediately to the ice water to stop cooking and leave them there for a few minutes. Then, you can peel the shell (leave the tail on for easy eating) and serve them or pop them in the fridge for later.
Keto Cocktail Sauce
Cocktail sauce is something I have never ever bought. It’s too easy to make and its especially easy to make “keto” with the invention of sugar-free ketchup.
I hesitate to give measurements for cocktail sauce because its really a personal preference. I like mine with lots of horseradish and extra lemon, but your tastes may be different. Don’t skimp on the Worcestershire here either, get the Lea & Perrins brand or better if you can.
Shrimp Cocktail is really easy to put together for someone special and it’s naturally impressive to serve. Should you find yourself with leftover shrimp you should chop up the leftovers and make this delicious shrimp salad for lunch the next day.
- Bring one quart of water to a boil. Add in shrimp boil seasonings, lemon, salt and garlic. Boil 5 minutes. Add in shrimp and boil for 3-4 minutes or until shrimp have turned pink and curled into a tight “C” shape.
- Remove the shrimp immediately to an ice bath. Remove the shells leaving the tails.
- Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store in the fridge for up to a week.