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My tips and tricks on poaching the shrimp for classic shrimp cocktail made completely from scratch. Almost as easy as buying a ready tray, but much more flavorful, juicy and delicious!
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Can you believe Christmas is next week? NEXT week! If you read my blog regularly, you probably fed up of my constant grumble about how time flies by, but really though, I just can’t wrap my head around it. Time to work on my Christmas menu. It’s our tradition to have a seafood feast on Christmas day with my family. Last year, we had king crab, huge baked salmon, mashed potatoes and some other seafood stuff. King crab was such a huge hit last year that no one was interested in baked salmon. Lesson learned, no salmon with king crab.
This year, I’m thinking king crab again for the main course with mashed potatoes, or maybe even scalloped potatoes (<- My family loves that stuff). I’m also planning to make some clam chowder, one of my favorites this time of year. If you have a great recipe for clam chowder, please share it in the comments below. I’d greatly appreciate that. And for appetizer, classic shrimp cocktail sounds absolutely perfect, delicious party food!
One thing that really turns me off is bland, overcooked tiny curled shrimps. And the ready tray you find at the grocery store is just that. I love my shrimp juicy, flavorful and cooked just long enough to cook it through. No rubbery tough meat, please. For the longest time, I used to just pan fry the seasoned shrimp in butter and olive oil in the skillet, so that I have full control over cooking time and flavor. But classic shrimp cocktail asks for poached shrimp. For some reason, the poaching method, whether it’s poaching eggs, shrimp or even chicken, intimidated me. Good news though! I’ve overcome my fear and mastered the art of poaching not long ago. Now I’m ready to share with you a few tips on how to poach perfectly seasoned shrimp.
There is really nothing to fear. First, we will make a flavorful poaching liquid by adding lemons and herbs in the water, bring it to a boil to bring out all the beautiful aromatics and then we add Tabasco and the shrimp to simmer for just 5-8 minutes.
Speaking of Tabasco, it’s one of our favorite condiments in our house. Whether we’re having scrambled eggs in the morning, or having fresh oysters with friends, we always have a bottle of Tabasco on the table. Now, even if you’re not into spicy things, Tabasco adds such an awesome depth of flavor to your dish. Give it a try.
Now, back to the poaching the shrimp. I love using jumbo shell-on shrimp. Poaching the shrimp with the shells on means ton of flavor! Ever heard of an advice not to throw away the shells and, instead, make a broth with them? Yeah, the shrimp shells are loaded with flavor, and we definitely don’t want to get rid of that. You can have your fishmonger devein them for you with the shells on, or you can do it yourself. I live in a small town in a landlocked state, so we don’t have fresh seafood around here, nor do we have a seafood store. I buy the frozen shrimp at Sam’s club, thaw them in cold water and devein them myself. Anyhow, you see how many flavor sources we’re talking about here? Poaching water is infused with bright and zesty lemon, earthy bold herbs and smoky Chipotle Tabasco. And with ton of natural flavor from shrimp shells, it’s guaranteed to produce flavorful shrimp. Now, one important thing to keep in mind when poaching the shrimp is NOT to boil them. Keeping the heat low and gentle is the crucial for tender juicy shrimp.
Ok, that was a lot of rambling. Let’s summarize the poaching tips:
- Use shell-on, deveined jumbo shrimp- Shells add more flavor and prevents the shrimp from curling.
- Use flavorful poaching liquid with aromatics- This yields flavorful, tasty shrimp.
- Don’t boil the shrimp, just gently simmer for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of shrimp- Boiling the shrimp will overcook them and create tough, rubbery meat.
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon peppercorn
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon Chipotle Tabasco
- 1 lbs about 16 count deveined shell-on jumbo shrimp, thawed if frozen
For cocktail sauce:
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large saucepan, combine thyme, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns in 3 cups of water.
- Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the pot of water with aromatics.
- Throw in the lemon halves into the water as well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then turn off the heat and let it sit for 8-10 minutes to infuse the water with aromatics.
- Remove the lemon halves, stir in the Tabasco and add the shrimps into the infused water.
- Turn the heat to medium and simmer the mixture for 5-8 minutes. Do NOT boil the water, or the shrimps will overcook and get rubbery.
- Take out one shrimp and cut in half to test if it’s fully cooked. If the shrimp is cooked through, remove from hot water into an ice bath to cool completely. Ice bath stops the cooking right away.
- Once the shrimps are chilled, remove the shells and arrange on a platter, preferably over crushed ice.
- To make the cocktail sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving.