Chef John's Shrimp Cocktail


  • 3 quarts cold water
  • ¼onion, sliced
  • ½lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay®)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1bay leaf
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup chili sauce
  • ¼ cup prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 drops hot sauce, or to taste
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 pounds shell-on deveined jumbo shrimp
  • Directions

  • Step 1

    Stir water, onion, lemon, garlic, tarragon, seafood seasoning, peppercorns, and bay leaf together in a large pot; bring to a simmer and cook until flavors blend, about 15 minutes.


  • Step 2

    Whisk ketchup, chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt together in a bowl; refrigerate until chilled, at least 15 minutes.

  • Step 3

    Bring poaching liquid to a rapid boil. Cook the shrimp in the boiling liquid until they are bright pink on the outside and the meat is no longer transparent in the center, about 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a bowl of ice water and immerse in ice water until cold; drain. Arrange cold shrimp on a platter and serve with chilled sauce.

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