With the holiday season upon us, shrimp cocktail platters are popping up left and right. Let's be honest here (think of my blog as a nest in the tree of trust and understanding), they are, indeed, a tad bit retro (and dated) but still totally (and completely) awesome when done right.
OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way, time to talk about the basics.
First...the shrimp. Buy fresh, wild Louisiana Gulf prawns if possible. As a second option, previously frozen, wild, U-15 prawns from Mexico. Try to avoid anything farm-raised if at all possible. For cocktail sauce, you can make your own or buy a solid store-bought one and doctor it up with spicy horseradish and fresh lemon. For something a little outside the box, make a "bloody mary" cocktail sauce and spike it with a bit of vodka, worcestershire, and pepper.
Now let's talk about cooking the shrimp.
Here's your guide to poaching your shrimp to perfection:
You want to impart lots of delicate and delicious flavor into your shrimp. You can do so with a simple Court Bouillon (aka aromatic broth).
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 shallots, chopped
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
5 ish black peppercorns
1 tsp kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a nice large pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Now back to the poaching. You are going to take your shrimp, whole with their shells still on, and drop them into another saucepan.
Next, pour your court bouillon over the shrimp through a strainer (to remove the ingredients).
Next turn your heat to medium and let the prawns poach for 3-4 minutes. Then turn the heat off and let them sit in the hot broth another 1-2 minutes until they are all opaque in color, slightly curled up, and their tails are a bright orangey pink. To stop the cooking process, pour the entire contents of the saucepan over ice.
Once completely cooled, remove shrimp from liquid.
Now you will begin the peeling and cleaning process. If you are wondering why I don't peel and clean my shrimp BEFORE I cook them, go ahead and try it that way, you will see why this way is better ;)
Get yourself a small pairing knife or kitchen scissors and carefully cut up the back of the shrimp shell towards the tail.
De-vein gently and rinse under cold water to fully clean if needed.
Pull away shell, leaving the tail intact and bam...you're done!
Serve them individually with cocktail sauce and lemony micro greens or on a platter over ice with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce on the side. Presentation options are endless.
'Tis the season friends... happy cocktailing!