11 Dec2006


Holiday entertaining here at home and abroad is in full swing. One of my fallback appetizers or hors d’oeuvres for small or large parties is some shrimp cocktail. A throwback to my parents generation, it remains a delicious, popular and incredibly easy alternative. shr2Yet so many folks do it so badly and a few simple tips would reverse the most common errors. Living in Manila, where prawns are abundant and fresh, this is a really good choice for a starter. For say 12 people, if this is the only hors d’oeuvre, I would start with 1.5-2.0 kilos of medium to large black tiger prawns. Buy the freshest you can find and take it home and keep it in a really cold in the fridge until used. Trim the prawns (they have a spicy horn if you intend to keep the heads on for presentation purposes) or just make a slit on their backs to clean/ remove their intestinal tracts. If you want the juiciest prawns, you can brine them in salty water in a cold fridge for 1-2 hours in the fridge before cooking.

Next, heat up a large pot of water (you may need two if you are doing two kilos) and if you like, add a spritz of fresh lemon and some salt to the water. When it reaches a boil, add the prawns and keep the flame going for another 1-2 minutes and then SHUT THE shr3HEAT OFF and leave the prawns in the pot and on the stove for a few more minutes until just cooked. The key is NOT to overcook them or they will get tough and rubbery. Test one of the prawns for doneness before removing the rest from the water and draining in a colander. Remember, the key is NOT to overcook them. Next, peel the prawns, leaving the tails on for guests to grab onto. Then arrange them nicely on a platter and leave at room temperature for up to 1 hour before serving. I prefer not to stick them in the fridge after cooking as I find that toughens them up as well. Make a simple cocktail sauce of ketchup, horseradish (bottled), salt, pepper and Tabasco and serve with small plates or napkins. You can also make a mayonnaise based sauce if you like. Fantastic with most drinks. When I do relatively large parties or gatherings, I like to put out the plates, platters, serving utensils ahead of time so I get an idea of how much food I need, what colors to work with, garnishes, etc. In this case, we used small mother of pearl plates together with beige ceramic dishes and small linen squares for folks to wipe their mussed fingers on…



  1. fried-neurons says:

    I love shrimp cocktail. For most of my life I hated shrimp in any form, but a couple of years ago something changed, and now I love it in SOME recipes, like this one.

    Dec 11, 2006 | 10:07 pm


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  3. gonzo says:

    shrimp cocktail…it’s what i imagine dining was like back in the 1950s. Then how about some oysters Rockefeller? Let’s see… the main course would be Steak Diane, and for dessert break out the jello mold and the baked alaska! :-)

    Dec 12, 2006 | 12:15 am

  4. joey says:

    Yum! This is really a standby…thanks for sharing your recipe. I always enjoy eating this if I see it at other people’s parties but have never made it myself. Now I can! :)

    Dec 12, 2006 | 12:36 am

  5. Maria Clara says:

    The freshness of your shrimps really set them apart from the rest of their counterpart on the other side of the globe. Plus, of course your magic touch and attention to details – the timing for doneness. I love your mother of pearl small plates they give a toney appeal with your shrimp.

    Dec 12, 2006 | 1:57 am

  6. bijin says:

    where can you get those mother of pearl plates? they look so lovely!

    Dec 12, 2006 | 10:39 pm

  7. stef says:

    We *love* shrimp cocktail — a fixture at our parties. I do add lemon juice to the cocktail sauce. And *lots* of horseradish. Another awesome dip would be a remoulade — we’re using a lemon remoulade this year for our mini crab cakes.

    Dec 13, 2006 | 4:17 am

  8. Marketman says:

    bijin, my favorite handicrafts store is balikbayan handicrafts with several branches across the city. They have nice things, are well priced and surprisingly have fantastic service – attentive staff, good wrapping materials, etc. I have many purchases from them that appear in the photos on this site… The small mother of pearl plates were just PHP150-200 each after their standard discount or just USD3-4. stef, yes, you are right, lemon juice brightens the sauce. And yes again, a remoulade is another great option…

    Dec 14, 2006 | 6:04 am

  9. Ted says:

    MM, would you mind giving out the exact proportions of the cocktail sauce you mentioned. I will try them for our office x’mas party potluck. Thanks in advance.

    Dec 15, 2006 | 7:34 am


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