This Feb. 3, 2014 photo shows shrimp cocktail with "Bloody Mary" sauce in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
My favorite thing about fancy parties? They almost always include a shrimp cocktail appetizer — platters of giant, plump shrimp just waiting to be dunked into a piquant cocktail sauce.
But there’s no reason you have to wait for fancy parties to enjoy this treat. All you need is an excuse. And to me, there’s none better than an Oscar viewing party. Best yet, shrimp cocktail is easy to make, can be done in advance, and you don’t even have to cook the shrimp yourself (but it is better if you do).
My preference is for large or jumbo shrimp, generally classified as 10 to 15 shrimp per pound. Large usually come in at 15 to 30 per pound.
The best shrimp are flash frozen within hours of being caught. This preserves the flavor and texture of the shrimp. Keep the shrimp frozen until just before you want to serve or cook them. When you are ready, thaw the shrimp under cold running water. This is essential to preserving the texture of the shrimp.
For shrimp cocktail, I cook the shrimp by a method that is closer to poaching. I want the shrimp to be fully cooked, but not over-cooked and this is my fail-safe method. I boil a big pot of salted water and add fresh lemons just before adding the thawed shrimp. As soon as the shrimp are added, the lid goes on the pot and the heat is turned off until the shrimp are cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes for most jumbo shrimp.
Once the shrimp are cooked, I dunk them in cold water to stop the cooking. You know when shrimp are perfectly cooked when the shells come off easily. The shells tend to stick to over-cooked shrimp.
Keep the peeled shrimp dry and cold in the refrigerator, then serve with homemade cocktail sauce. The bloody mary cocktail sauce here is one of my favorites. The addition of vodka adds a spike of flavor and the rim of celery salt is both pretty and reminiscent of that classic cocktail.