This is a classic cold seafood appetizer and a must if you want to add a little class to your Sunday Dinner. This version of a seafood cocktail is made with shrimp, but the same theories and the sauce still apply if you have abalone, lobster, octopus, squid, conch, big clam foot, or any of the white, mild sea critters.
The most important thing of this or any other seafood is freshness. Buy clean, fresh shrimp in their shells, keep them cold, and plan on using them as soon as possible. They will keep on ice in a cold refrigerator for a couple of days, but they deteriorate by the hour. If you get frozen shrimp, thaw them in cold running water shortly before you cook them. For shrimp cocktail you want to get as large shrimp as possible, 10-15's are nice.
To cook the shrimp, put a couple quarts of water in a medium sized pot.
You want plenty of water for the shrimp to swim around in.
Add to the water:
Good bit of black peppercorns
couple bay leaves
couple hot red dried chilies
good squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and toss in the rind
Bring the water up to a good rolling boil and boil for a couple minutes to break in the spices. Throw in the shrimp, bring back up to a boil, turn down to a simmer for a couple minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for a minute or two.
Cooking times for shrimp
Small-Med Med-Lrg Lrg-Extra Lrg
(51/60-smaller) (21/25-41/50) (U/10-16/20)
1-1/2 - 2 min. 2-1/2 - 3 min. 3-1/2 - 4 min
You want to cook the shrimp through, but not overcook them. The time this takes depends a fair bit on the size of the shrimp, the altitude, your heat source and the general position of the stars, but when the shrimp feel like they are "done", they probably are. Break one in half, and if the inside is white and opaque all the way to the center, they are ready. Don't over cook the little critters, or they get tough.
When you think they are done, drain off the hot water, and toss the shrimp in some cold water to cool off. If they are not going to be used immediately, ice down.
To prepare the shrimp, first peel off the shell. The tail part of the shell can be removed, but it is more elegant to leave it on as a "handle". Gently slit the body of the shrimp up the back, and remove the black vein. Rinse, and place back on ice.
To serve: partially fill a chilled sherbet or other stemmed shallow glass with chilled cocktail sauce. Arrange the shrimp around the edge of the glass with their tails hanging out and their "heads" in the sauce. Garnish with a slice of lime and a bit of parsley.
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