Shrimp Cocktail

You may be tempted to buy one of those premade shrimp cocktail rings at the grocery store, but please spare yourself the experience of eating those tasteless, spongy appetizers and try making shrimp cocktail yourself. It's really not that difficult with the right recipe for shrimp cocktail, and you'll find the taste and texture to be much more palatable than the stuff that's been precooked and sitting out on ice for a while. You'll be sure to impress your guests when you serve shrimp cocktail that's homemade with fresh ingredients.

Buy your fresh shrimp no more than a day before you plan on serving shrimp cocktail. Choose shrimp that have intact, shiny shells and firm flesh that looks plump. Broken shells and withered meat are both clues that the shrimp is old. Do not buy any shrimp with black spots. This is an indication that the shrimp meat is starting to spoil. Choose medium, large or jumbo shrimp for cocktails. They're the perfect size for appetizers.

Sometime during the day you want to serve the shrimp cocktail (ideally about two hours before), bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the shrimp with the shells on. Cook the shrimp for a minute or two until the flesh turns white and pink, or orange or red, depending on the type of shrimp you use. Look for the transition from the opaque raw shrimp to just barely cooked shrimp. Remove from heat, drain the shrimp immediately and place them in a large bowl of ice,cold water to stop the cooking process.

Remove the shells using a pair of kitchen shears or a paring knife. Devein the shrimp, rinsing each shrimp under cold running water, and then placing them on a bed of ice to keep them as cold as possible. Cover the shrimp on the bed of ice with saran wrap and put the shrimp in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the shrimp cocktail. Replace the ice frequently if you keep them chilled for a long time. Do not allow the shrimp to soak in cold water or melting ice. You want to preserve the texture of the shrimp and the longer they sit in cold water, the spongier the texture will become.

When you are ready to serve the shrimp, spoon cocktail sauce into serving ramekins or custard cups. Try making your own homemade shrimp cocktail sauce for a real treat. Fill a punch bowl with ice and arrange the shrimp on the ice. Set the bowl of shrimp out with the cocktail sauce and garnish with lemon wedges. Bon appétit!

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