When done right, shrimp cocktail is one of my favourite appetizers. Done poorly though, and it’s a big mess of tough or watery shrimp. This method pretty much guarantees perfect shrimp cocktail every time.
This is a slightly simplified version of the Test Kitchen’s approach. The key is to make sure you stick to one pound of shrimp per batch. Here I’ll run through two pounds worth. If you want more – just keep repeating. 16/20 (16-20 shrimp per pound) count shrimp are ideal although as small as 31/40 count works – you just need to reduce the cooking time accordingly. You will be poaching the shrimp in a court bouillon based on a shrimp stock so make sure you get the shrimp still in the shell. Serve it with classic cocktail sauce.
- 2 lbs shell-on 16/20 count frozen shrimp
- 1 cup white wine
- 5 black peppercorns
- 5 coriander seeds
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
- Run the shrimp under cold water to thaw. Peel the shrimp, reserving shells. Place the peeled shrimp back into the refrigerator. Place the shells in a saucepan with 4 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove shells from the shrimp stock and add the white wine, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. This is a court bouillon.
- Turn off the heat and add 1 lb of shrimp to the saucepan. Cover and let sit for 8 minutes (set a timer). While the shrimp sits, set up a large bowl of ice water. After 8 minutes remove shrimp from the court bouillon and plunge into the ice water. When cold remove shrimp, drain and refrigerate.
- Bring the stock to boil. Turn of the heat and add the second pound of shrimp. Set the timer for 8 minutes and refresh your bowl of ice water. After 8 minutes remove shrimp from the court bouillon and plunge into the ice water. When cold remove shrimp, drain and refrigerate.
- Repeat as many times as you want, although you won't need shells for any more than 2 lbs. If you are only doing one pound, reduce the amount of water to 3 cups for the initial stock step.
- Serve with classic cocktail sauce.