Shrimp cocktail is by no means a modern dish, but its appeal lies in its classic combination of sweet, cold shrimp and spicy sauce. There are many variations from using shrimp versus the larger prawns, spiking the classic ketchup-based sauce with everything from vodka to rum, adding various heat elements from sliced jalapeno to exotic hot sauces, and even adding fresh chopped vegetables into the mix. Either way, it's a rather refreshing way to start off a dinner and always a perfect crowd pleaser that with its ability to be prepared far in advance, is also host-friendly.
The original shrimp cocktail comes from Britain in the 1970s where large prawns were served chilled, rimming a large cocktail glass that housed a mayo and lemon based sauce. The mayo has since been substituted and preferred by the lighter and more flavorful ketchup, and texture and heat added by a combination of horseradish and hot sauce with other various additions of acid ranging from Worchestishire sauce to lemon juice to spirits. Either way you make it, it's a wonderful appetizer and very popular in our house around the holidays, especially for New Year.
But like all simple recipes, these are most often the ones screwed up the most. First issue people run into is overcooked shrimp. Second is bland shrimp -- we are tempted to by the preboiled ones at the market but they have no flavor. And third, is a bizarre tasting sauce from the jar. I solve all these problems in this posting with minimal effort or cost -- in fact, buying your shrimp raw and cooking them yourself saves you a bunch over the precooked ones from your market. And my recipe for the sauce comes together in seconds, but tastes worlds away by using what I think is the best condiment ever: sriracha. This recipe serves 4-6 people for an appetizer, but can be easily doubled or tripled to serve a crowd.
Shrimp Cocktail with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined but tails left on
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish (not cream)
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Worcesteshire sauce
1 tsp sriracha hot sauce or to taste
Fill a medium sized pot with cold water. Add the Old Bay seasoning, one of the lemons cut in half, the bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Bring water to a boil and boil for 5 minutes to let seasonings flavor the water. Add the shrimp all at once and cook until they turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the water promptly and place into a bowl, then place in refrigerator to cool. Discard water.
To make the cocktail sauce, combine the ketchup, horseradish, salt and pepper to taste, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha to taste in a small bowl. Either serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, cut up the second lemon into wedges. Layer the shrimp onto a platter and add the sauce on the side, and garnish with the lemon wedges.
Shrimp and sauce can be made and refrigerated up to a day in advance. Best to serve both cold.
For a dramatic and classic display, place the sauce in individual cocktail glasses (martinis work well) and garnish the rim of the glass with the shrimp. Or, simply plate on a decorative platter.