Probably one of the most encountered foods on a Summer buffet is cocktail shrimp. They are good looking with their orange-white or pinkish hued tiger patterned costume. It used to be simple to make steamed shrimp for a buffet -- you’d take a bunch of wild caught shrimp, boil them in salted water with a touch of lemon and serve them after they were chilled. Not so anymore. Nowadays most of the shrimp that are available at the local market are farm raised and grow up highly controlled with a managed diet plan. All that efficiency and sustainability is equally good and bad at the same time. Yes it’s good that we have a plentiful supply of this seafood product and it does not disturb the natural ocean floor fauna. On the other hand the taste and texture is far from what is used to be compared to wild caught shrimp.
(gently sous vide/pouche cooked shrimp carpaccio)
I suggest the difference lies in the cooking. I have been poaching my cocktail shrimp rather then aggressively boiling them which tends to dry them out and gives a texture similar to papier mache rather than a luscious tenderness and a faint lobster like taste.
It’s actually simple - first prepare a broth then pour it over your cleaned, de-veined shrimp. De-veining is done by cutting the peeled shrimp’s back -- open the curved part with a small knife and remove the string like black intestine.
(shrimp in the flavorful poaching broth)
Shrimp Poaching Broth
(recipe yields four appetizer portions)
8 cups water
1 cup rice vinegar
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery
1 onion, peeled then cut in half
1 clove garlic
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon coriander seeds whole
1 branch thyme
2 tablespoons sea salt such as Baline
16 pieces (U-16 sized) peeled and de-veined
1. Combine all ingredients (except shrimp) in a pot (1-gallon sized). If you have the shrimp shells from peeling add them too. Bring mixture to boil on high heat setting.
2. Rinse cleaned shrimp in a container with lukewarm water (this will bring shrimp up to room temperature).
3. Pour boiling spice/vinegar broth through a strainer over the shrimp. Cool shrimp in spice/vegetable broth (this will make shrimp flavorful).
(cocktail shrimp with tequilla cocktail sauce)
Not your usual cocktail dress!
I think we collectively can agree that every cocktail party needs a nice dress. This is how you can “dress” your poached shrimp.
The recipe is a version of a classic mayonnaise in combination with ketchup, horseradish and TEQUILA…
Tequila Cocktail Sauce
(recipe yields about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh grated horseradish (store bought pickled horseradish may be substituted)
1 cup ketchup such as Heinz
½-teaspoon salt such as Baline
1 lemon juiced
1 cup mayonnaise such as Hellman’s
4 tablespoons tequila such as Jose Cuervo
½-teaspoon hot sauce such as Sriracha
1. Combine ketchup, salt, lemon juice, mayonnaise, tequila and hot sauce in a bowl and mix with a wire whisk.
Impress your fish monger
Next time you’re at the fish store counter order your shrimp in the fish market trade language “gimme a pound of the U-16 tigers!” meaning I would like to have jumbo Asian shrimp about 16 pieces to the pound. South American shrimp from Ecuador are an excellent choice too.
(poached shrimp with serrano ham chips, shaved fennel and peach slices)
Enjoy the bounty of Summer!