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4 servings


0 hours 10 mins


0 hours 3 mins


0 hours 35 mins

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Cooking Liquid:

10 cups cold water

1 lemon, halved

2 Bay Leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme, oregano, parsley or any fresh herbs you have on hand

2 Stalks of celery cut in large pieces

2 carrots cut in large pieces

1/2 onion cut in half

2 Tbsp. black peppercorns

1 Tbsp. Zatarain’s crab boil mix (or any seafood seasoning or crab boil mix)


1 Lb. large shrimp (15-20 per pound), in the shell, rinsed

Cocktail Sauce, recipe follows

Lemon wedges

Cocktail Sauce:

1-cup ketchup

1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced

4 Tsps. prepared horseradish, or to taste, drained

1/4 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce


1. Put the water, lemon, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the carrots, celery and onions. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 30 minutes.

2. Drop the shrimp into the liquid and turn off the heat. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they curl and turn pink, about 3 minutes for this size. Drain and place the shrimp on a plate or baking sheet and put in the refrigerator to chill (about 30 minutes). Peel the shrimp and remove the vein along the curve of the shrimp – if your shrimp has the vein.  If you purchased shell on and already deveined, you can skip this step.  Refrigerate if not serving right away.

3. When it is time to serve, select the serving vessel of your choice, plate and present to your guests.  Enjoy!

Cocktail Sauce:

1. Combine the ketchup, lemon zest and juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix well, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Yields: 1 1/2 cups

NOTE: I like to de-vein the shrimp before cooking or better yet, buy the shrimp still in their shells but already deveined.  This saves a lot of time.   I still leave the shell on when cooking since that is where a lot of the flavor comes from.  I don’t recommend just boiling the shrimp without the shell on. The shrimp lose their flavor. I also like to buy very large shrimp since the presentation is fabulous but any size shrimp work.

You can present the shrimp in many ways.  A large bowl of shrimp with the shells still on make a fun, interactive outdoor starter before a BBQ.  Let the guests peel their own!  Anoter way to serve a crowd is to serve them on a platter with the sauce on the side.   Your guests can help themselves.  My favorite way of serving shrimp cocktail is still “old school”.  4-5 large shrimp are hung on a pretty cocktail glass (martini glasses and coup glasses work great) and a couple of tablespoons of cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge are served in the glass.  Reminds me of eating at great steak houses in NYC.  No matter how you present these, they are good!  It is all about that cooking liquid.  It just adds so much flavor to the shrimp…something I didn’t learn for years.

When I first started making shrimp cocktail, I’d peel them and throw them in boiling water.  Talk about bland…but I didn’t know any better.  It wasn’t until I watched a chef make them at a restaurant where I worked in Westhampton, that I learned the “tricks” of seasoning the water and keeping those shells on!  It’s the little things.  His name is Angelo and I don’t know where he is today but he was an amazing chef and taught me a lot without even knowing it.  He used what ever herbs and veggies he had on hand.  No carrots or celery?  Don’t sweat it!  Just add what you have.  He never measured…oh to be that skilled and confident.  But, when flavoring your water in this recipe, percision is not necessary.   One last trick he taught me was to never rinse the shrimp to cool them down.  He’d put them on a big sheet tray and put them in the walk-in fridge to chill. (I’d kill for one of those during the holidays…all that storage space!)  They were peeled later…all the flavor still in tact.

Hope that helps you make the perfect shrimp cocktail.