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Shrimp Cocktail, and Other Appetizers We Should Never Get Too Jaded to Love

October 15, 2009

I used to cater an annual event, a fundraiser, where it was all about the appetizers (or apps, if you want to be super cool and restaurant-y).  It was a volunteer situation, so my mom, a bunch of my friends, and I would get together and cook like crazy, folding tray after tray of delicate little phyllo pastries, tucking sprigs of fresh thyme under platters of crostini, piping attractive strips of smoked trout mousse onto endive leaves (don’t judge, it was the 90’s).Shrimp cocktail

Of course as soon as these carefully arranged platters left the kitchen and went into the fray, it was a free for all.  These people had bought their  tickets, and by god they were going to get their share of the snacks.

But there was always one tray that even the most hardy and game members of our makeshift staff declined to pass.  It was the shrimp cocktail tray.  Every year I’d make some version of a poached shrimp with a dipping sauce, often something pretty close to the classic recipe, and when one of those babies sailed out through the kitchen door it almost sounded like a cartoon outside.  The excited raised voices, the jostling, an occasional glass breaking.  Then my lovely dish-washing husband Gary (pretty much the only one able to physically remain upright while being rushed by the wall of hungry guests), would lurch back through the kitchen door, hair a bit ruffled, a bit of parsley stuck to his cheek, and his tray empty.

Gary does a great impression of someone pretending to notice the shrimp for the first time, even though he could recognize them quite well from, like, 5-minutes ago.  “Oh, look, shrimp!” he exclaims, with his eyebrows raised in simulated surprise and discovery.  (He still does this every time he sees shrimp being passed around at a party, and I actually still laugh.)

So, while we rattle around our kitchens looking for something new and different, let’s all link pinkies and swear to each other that we will never, ever get too snobby to enjoy a plain old shrimp cocktail.  Or a great meatball (with or without a toothpick in it).  Or a pig-in-a-blanket.  If you need reminding, it’s a great excuse to serve any of these up at your next cocktail party.  Just watch your fingers as you serve them.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. jgooch permalink
    October 15, 2009 2:25 pm

    Love the ramekin idea. I serve it in a martini glass with the cocktail sauce inside. Shrimp need to be pretty big or it looks stupid. Pigs in a blanket bring them to their knees everytime. It just kills me!

  2. cgb permalink
    October 15, 2009 7:33 pm

    My husband only request when we got married was that we have pigs in a blanket at the cocktail hour. I relented… 15 years later… four children later…. they call them christmas hotdogs.. we have them every christmas eve..

  3. Catherine permalink
    October 16, 2009 9:13 pm

    Is there anyone associated with cookstr that specializes in gourmet food with weight loss as a result.

    • Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
      October 21, 2009 8:35 pm

      Hi, Catherine,

      We have a number of health-oriented chefs and authors on our site. You might want to start by using the Dietary Considerations tab on the left hand refinement bar…there you will find categories like low-fat and healthy, which will point you in the direction of less indulgent recipes.

      Hope this helps!


  4. October 19, 2009 6:07 pm

    Oh my goodness, I could eat shrimp cocktail every day and not get sick of it.


  5. Carolan permalink
    October 20, 2009 11:35 am

    Agreed! I join in praise of The Naked Shrimp with “Cocktail” Sauce. The only question is: how-much-horse-radish? I say: a lot. And fresh-grated.

  6. October 30, 2009 3:51 pm

    I love shrimp cocktail! And the fresh horsey radish is a must!

  7. jackie permalink
    November 2, 2009 10:03 pm

    I recently took my 90 year old grandfather out for lunch His one request was shrimp cocktail. It wasn’t on the menu but the kitchen made it for him anyway. The memory of him completely enjoying his shrimp cocktail will stay with me forever. It is a classic just like him.

  8. November 17, 2009 3:54 pm

    Shrimp Cocktail is always a must at our home for every holiday dinner. I remember as a kid my mother serving it up with a bit of iceberg lettuce in margarita glasses and a dollop of sauce on top.

    Our family likes the sauce heavy on the horseradish. Its basically a pink color. The motto is “If grandma (a 100 year old Sicilian that can handle the heat) isn’t grabbing for tissues its not hot enough.”

    I recently tried Ina Garten’s version with roasted shrimp rather than poached. It was a nice variation.

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