Posts Tagged ‘cocktail sauce’

Before you can have great shrimp cocktail, you have to do 2 things: buy the right shrimp and cook the shrimp the right way. The right shrimp is nothing less than wild-caught American shrimp. If you’re buying shrimp from Asia, your supporting a system that uses slave labor, where the shrimp are fed chemical pellets and swim in feces. If it doesn’t say wild-caught American shrimp on the package or at your local seafood store, it’s crap. Give your store owner hell for selling it.

Cooking shrimp the right way is something I learned living in the South. My wonderful friends and neighbors taught me many things about food, and the right way to cook shrimp is near the top of the list.

Shrimp was never meant to be cooked to death. It doesn’t matter if you start with fresh shrimp, store-bought shrimp, or even frozen shrimp…the same rules apply: 1) Season your water. 2) Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it get happy for 20 minutes. 3) Drop in the shrimp and raise the heat. 4) Remove the shrimp AS SOON AS the water returns to a boil.

The seasoning for the water, commonly called shrimp boil, makes or breaks the flavor of your shrimp. For years, I used Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil in a bag. And it was good. But at some point, I realized I had to get serious and make my own boil.

2 quarts water
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, squeezed, then drop the lemon in
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon dry thyme
Placing the spices in one of these means you won't be picking them out later. Worth the investment!

Placing the spices in one of these means you won’t be picking them out later. Worth the investment!

Combine all the ingredients in a 4–6 quart pot. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and pour in your shrimp. (I prefer unpeeled.) Stir well, bring the heat back up to high, and remove the shrimp AS SOON AS it returns to a boil! The shrimp are cooked! Done!

Strain the shrimp and place them in a bowl with crushed ice on the bottom. Add more crushed ice on top of the shrimp, and place the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

 

Freshly shucked oysters and clams, or in this case, beautiful boiled wild-caught American shrimp, call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix keeps the cocktail sauce from freezing solid when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer until next time.

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2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

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Here in New England, oysters are plentiful. We don’t just slurp ’em down: we go out and dig our own…we have our favorite buck-an-oyster bar for any given day of the week…and we debate over the best variety, from east coast to west, north to south.

So when a friend of ours who lives on Cape Cod dropped off about 5 dozen Barnstable oysters she just dug that morning, it was cause to celebrate.

oysters

Fresh oysters deserve an amazing cocktail sauce, and my recipe kicks butt: lots of horseradish, lots of flavor, and a secret ingredient: vodka. Not only does it give it a kick, it keeps it from freezing solid, so I can keep the cocktail sauce in the freezer until I need it.

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Fresh shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

Freshly shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

 

When I’m in Portland, Maine, I visit one of the best oyster bars in the country: Eventide. Besides some wickedly creative dishes, they consistently have a fantastic variety of fresh oysters to choose from. And they offer a variety of “accoutrements” to go with them: anything from a red wine mignonette to kimchee ice. My favorite is the pickled red onion ice. All you need is a shot glass with a freshly shucked oyster inside, a half-shot of chilled vodka on top, and some pickled red onion ice, and you’ve got the best oyster shooter on planet Earth. I even suggested the shooter to the manager at Eventide. It has yet to make it to the menu. (But I remain hopeful!)

 

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion shaved ice. Bottoms up!

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion ice. Bottoms up!

 

I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good version of the pickled red onion ice at home, and I serve it alongside my cocktail sauce.

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Peel and quarter the onions. Drop them in a medium-sized pot and cover with about a quart of water. Bring it to a boil and cook it down until it has reduced to a cup of concentrated onion water after straining.

Bring the strained onion water back to the stove, and on medium heat, add the sugar and vinegar, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and placing it in the freezer.

When it’s time to eat oysters, remove the block of red onion ice from its container, and, using a fine cheese grater, shave the ice over the top of the freshly shucked oysters and devour immediately!

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We slurp down more clams and oysters in the summer here in New England than at any other time of year. Freshly shucked oysters and clams–or in this case–beautiful boiled wild-caught American shrimp, call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix keeps the cocktail sauce from freezing solid when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer.

image

 

 

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Freshly shucked oysters and clams–or in this case–beautiful boiled wild-caught American shrimp, call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix keeps the cocktail sauce from freezing solid when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer.

image

 

 

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Freshly shucked oysters and clams call for an equally amazing cocktail sauce…and this sauce kicks butt! And it features a key ingredient that you might not expect: vodka. The small amount of vodka in the mix keeps the cocktail sauce from freezing solid when stored in the freezer. Just scoop out what you need, let it thaw, and put the rest back in the freezer.

cocktail sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups ketchup

4 Tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

5 grinds of fresh black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Horseradish just doesn’t get the credit it deserves. A world without horseradish would mean boring Bloody Mary’s, cocktail sauces with no kick, and steaks and roast beef sandwiches just crying out for sauces and mayos with personality.

Horseradish is a perennial plant from the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage. It’s mainly grown for its white tapered root, which, when not disturbed, has little aroma. But when you cut or grate it, enzymes from the damaged plant cells release oils that give horseradish that wonderful pungent smell and flavor. It loses this pungency just as quickly, unless you store it in vinegar, which is why bottled or “prepared” horseradish is always found in a vinegar solution.

In the garden, horseradish can become invasive, meaning it will want to take over if you let it, but in my garden, it doesn’t get to do that because I regularly harvest a couple of roots for my kitchen.

 

Horseradish in the garden

Growing up in a Lithuanian family, there were very few spices ever used in cooking. Most of the food was pretty bland. Mom would salt food, but even black pepper was pretty rare. Peppers of any kind were never used–they never grew in Lithuania–so horseradish became the universal ingredient when a kick was needed. My grandfather loved it. I can still remember my grandfather crying his eyes out as he grated a freshly picked horseradish root from his garden. It was absolutely a labor of love. He would keep his grated horseradish in vinegar in the fridge, and then when dinner came around, it would quickly find its way to the table next to just about any meat my grandmother was cooking.

These days, with food processors in just about any kitchen, there’s no excuse not to use fresh horseradish. Your nasal passages and eyeballs are safe from being blown out.

Some of the basic applications for horseradish are still the best. The following recipes use prepared horseradish you easily find in the supermarket, but use fresh if you have it.

 

A freshly harvested horseradish root

For a simple horseradish mayo:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
Combine both ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic, and refirgerate. Goes great on a roast beef sandwich.

 

For a fancier horseradish sauce that goes great on grilled salmon:

3/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover with plastic, and place in fridge for a few hours for the flavors to blend.

 

 

Alz cocktail sauce

2 cups ketchup

4 Tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon Tabasco

5 grinds of fresh black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vodka

Combine all ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer. Thanks to the vodka, my cocktail sauce never freezes solid, so just scoop out what you need and let it thaw.