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Course: Appetizer
Keyword: Seafood, shrimp

Shrimp Cocktail: Reloaded

ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 4 hours 33 minutes
I'd say about 96% of shrimp cocktails are all about the sauce, with the shrimp reduced to mere delivery devices. Our version reverses this culinary injustice, placing the emphasis on the crustaceans, which are brined before steaming. The sauce is slightly smokey but sweet with almonds providing a textural counterpoint to the snappiness of the shrimp.
Photo by Lynne Calamia
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For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek chili paste (the brand with the rooster on it)
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (Lazy Kettle brand)

For the shrimp:

  • 1 cup room temperature water plus more cold water for the water bath
  • 2 ounces kosher salt
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds tail-on large shrimp (21-25 count)

Specialized Hardware

Food processor
Folding metal steamer basket
ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 4 hours 33 minutes


Make the sauce:

  • Pulse the almonds in a food processor until the pieces resemble coarse meal, about 20 one-second pulses. Add the tomatoes, ketchup, sambal, horseradish, lemon juice, Old Bay, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and liquid smoke. Pulse to the desired consistency ( I like mine a little on the chunky side).
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving...overnight would be better. This sauce will keep for up to 1 month in the fridge.

Make the shrimp:

  • Combine the 1 cup room temperature water, the salt, and sugar in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Add the ice and set aside.
  • Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the shrimp open across the back, from front to tail, exposing the inner vein. Submerge in the water and remove the vein, which should float off and sink. Avoid removing the shell if possible. As each shrimp is deveined, transfer it to the cold brine. Once they're all in, leave to brine for another 30 minutes.
  • When you've got about 10 minutes remaining, bring an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan large enough to accommodate your steamer basket, over high heat.
  • Drain the shrimp and briefly rinse under cold water. Arrange on your steamer basket, minimizing overlap. (You may need to do this in a couple of batches.) Drop the heat to medium-high, cover, and steam for 3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, rinse out the bowl and add 2 to 3 cups of ice to it.
  • Transfer the shrimp to the ice bowl and toss a few times to stop the cooking process. Toss every couple of minutes until the shrimp have chilled through, then either serve or refrigerate in airtight containment for up to 24 hours. Alternately, place in the freezer, tossing every few minutes for 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly chilled.
  • Peel the shrimp and serve with the cocktail sauce. Or serve with the shells on and let your guests do the peeling. That'll slow them down a little.
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