Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

I know what you're thinking.... "shrimp cocktail is so 70's."  I know. It's been done, it's been overdone and maybe some of you are just over it.  But I, for one, am not.  I love shrimp and I love shrimp cocktail, and I think when it's done well, it's still a stellar starter for any party.  Shrimp are definitely party animals, and I love inviting them.  Maybe it's high time we bring back the shrimp cocktail.  No, actually, I don't want to bring back the shrimp cocktail we all remember from the 60's and '70's.  Do any of you even remember the '60's and '70's?  Well, the shrimp cocktail wasn't always that great.

When I talk about shrimp cocktail, I'm not talking about buying already cooked shrimp in a shrink-wrapped package at the store and plunking them down on a plate with some ubiquitous red sauce.  No, my friend, I'm talking about plump, juicy shrimp that's been brined and roasted to perfection.  I'm also talkin' about a sweet/spicy sauce that is bright and fresh and flavorful and the perfect complement to those shrimp.

First the shrimp.  I was so blown away by how much flavor the brine imparts into the shrimp in such a short amount of time.  20 to 25 minutes is all it takes.  Once out of the brine, the shrimp are patted dry and tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted until they are just barely done.  I let them cool only a few minutes and serve them warm with the sauce.  They can certainly be chilled at this point and served cold - they're delicious that way too, but we love them warm or even room temperature.

Now the sauce.  I love Alton Brown's cocktail sauce.  You can add more or less horseradish depending on your tastes, but I think his flavors are pretty balanced, and it couldn't be easier to put together...throw everything in the food processor, chill.  We love this stuff. But if you're not in the mood to make your own, we also like Whole Foods' cocktail sauce.  Or use your favorite.

Maybe our old friend, shrimp cocktail doesn't need to be a has-been.  Maybe it deserves a new name to go with it's 21st century makeover, something a little less stodgy-sounding...cocktel de camaron, or cocktail di gamberetti or cocktail de crevettes. Or maybe just Roasted Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce.  Whatever you want to call it, I think Alton was right...this is definitely good eats.

Roasted Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Printable Recipe
Adapted from Alton Brown
32 shell-on (21 to 25 count) tiger shrimp (if frozen, thaw in a bowl of room temp water for ½ hour before cleaning)

For the brine:
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cold water

For the cocktail sauce:  (Adapted from Ina Garten)

Note:  If you don't have prepared horseradish, Dijon mustard is a good substitute (Trader Joe's if you have it)

1/2 cup catsup
1/2 cup prepared chili sauce 
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish 
2 teaspoons Worcerstershire Sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Tobasco or your favorite hot sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning, optional

Using a sharp paring knife, make an incision down the backside of the shrimp, following the intestinal track. Eviscerate shrimp and rinse under cool water.

Place cleaned shrimp into a bowl with brine and refrigerate mixture for 20 to 25 minutes. While shrimp are brining, place tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and salt in food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate cocktail sauce until ready to serve.

*Place a baking sheet or broiler pan under oven broiler and preheat for 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and drain thoroughly. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and dry on paper towels. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning, if desired, or a little salt and pepper.

Place shrimp onto a sizzling sheet pan and return to broiler immediately. After 2 minutes, turn the shrimp with a pair of tongs. Return the shrimp to broiler for 1 minute. Transfer to a cold cookie sheet. Refrigerate immediately.

Once shrimp have chilled, arrange with cocktail sauce in a martini glass or as desired.

* I roast the shrimp in my toaster oven at 425 degrees for about 5-7 minutes or until just starting to turn pink.  I turn the shrimp when they come out of the oven and let the heat from the pan finish cooking them until they are cool enough to place on your serving platter.  Eat warm or you can chill them to serve later.

Yield: 4 servings or more as an appetizer