Shrimp Cocktail


In 1959, Italo Ghelfi, one of the original partners of the Golden Gate Casino, introduced the famous 25¢ shrimp cocktail to the casino and Las Vegas (photo: Welcome to the History of Las Vegas)

In his tome, American Cookery, published in 1972, the famous gourmand, James beard wrote, “There is no first course as popular as a cocktail of shrimp with a large serving of cocktail sauce.” Of course, he was describing the eternal shrimp cocktail, a concoction which was a variation on the “oyster cocktail” created sometime in 1860 by a miner in San Francisco---who accidentally dipped some oysters into ketchup.  By the 1900s a cocktail sauce had been created and shrimp, popular in Cajun/Creole cooking, had become the standard in the sauce. By the 1950s every party or gathering had shrimp cocktail as a standby.

Today, shrimp cocktail has become rather passé. Admittedly, not many people make it or order it in restaurants, from what I've seen. And that's sad. A well-made shrimp cocktail is a delight for the palette. I loved it when I was a kid. It made me feel like an adult, partly because of the "cocktail" moniker. Anyway, I still love the dish. Given below is my own humble recipe for this delightful appetizer.


For the cocktail sauce:
½ cup chili sauce (I prefer Heinz)
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minced

For the shrimp:
1 lemon, halved
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 pounds large tail-on shrimp in the shell (about 30
1. Prepare the cocktail sauce: in a medium bowl, combine chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Have a large bowl of ice water ready to cool the shrimp. But first, to a large pot of water (about 8-quart), add the lemon, garlic, salt, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, and when the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done (no more than 3 minutes total). They should be a bright pink and curled.
3. Remove with a slotted spoon to the ice water. When they are cool enough to handle (about 2 minutes), peel and remove the vein along the curve of the shrimp, but leaving the tail on. Serve at room temperature, or chilled, in a martini glass filled with cocktail sauce and the shrimp decoratively arranged and looped along the rim of the glass.   
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on size of cocktail glass.

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