Coctel de Camaron (Mexican Shrimp Cocktail)

I feel almost qualified to be running the 4th floor of the hospital now. Dad's about to close out the second week of his vacation there and it looks very much like he may have several more weeks of fun ahead. If it weren't for all the tubes, beeping machines, needles, humiliating medical procedures, meals that drip from a bag and lack of sleep, he might otherwise enjoy all the attention. I mean, if you have to spend the weeks leading up to your 89th birthday in a hospital, you might as well get to be in a beautiful, fairly new state-of the-art place with caring, young, energetic nurses and incredibly attentive and amazingly smart doctors. It could most certainly be worse.

This is what we tell ourselves as we spend hours and days sitting by his side, cheering him on and supporting Mom as we shuttle her back and forth from the hospital so she can rest up for the next visit. She has been with him almost constantly since he was admitted. I really am going to get to talking about this amazing shrimp cocktail, but not before I have a chance to just say that in the past 2 weeks I have come to understand at a whole other level the meaning of family as my kids and husband have given tirelessly of themselves to be there for Mom and Dad, and for me, as we circle the family wagons to get through the humbling effects of a cancer diagnosis that without doubt, many of you have already experienced in your own families. We still have a ways to go before he's out of the woods, but we are surrounded by optimism and people who are a whole lot smarter than we are, so we're pretty sure that Dad will be back home in his beloved recliner before too very long.

I haven't been in the kitchen much these past couple of weeks, but before all this came down, I made these amazingly scrumptious shrimp cocktails (thank you Cousin Katie!!), which, to me, tastes sort of like the love child of a bloody mary and a bowl of gazpacho. With shrimp. And as soon as I'm home long enough to do so, I'm making a double batch. Here's the recipe...

Coctel de Camaron
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy Cousin Katie

I like to use raw shrimp and cook them in the shell for maximum flavor, but to save time, you can certainly buy cooked shrimp. I like to use the smaller shrimp for this so I can leave them whole, with the added bonus that they tend to not have such large veins that need removing.  I was also a little unsure at first if the sauce might be too thin, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, so serve it with a spoon (and chips!). This is so great to make ahead...the longer it sits, the better it gets!

1 pound medium raw shrimp
Salt
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup peeled, diced cucumber
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 ½ cups V-8 juice (spicy is awesome)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 can small shrimp with juice
Juice of a lime, about 2 Tbsp
¼ cup orange juice (mango juice is good)
A few splashes of good tequila
Hot sauce to taste (I used 3 tablespoons of Red Devil)
1large avocado, diced

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the shrimp (shells on).  Cook the shrimp for 3-4 minutes or until the shrimp are just pink (do not overcook).  Alternately, you can roast the shrimp in the oven, if you like.  Remove the shrimp from the pan (or oven) and let cool.  Peel them and de-vein, if necessary.  Cut the shrimp into halves or thirds if using large shrimp, but reserve a few whole ones for serving.

Combine the shrimp with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and taste for salt and add more hot sauce if desired.  At this point it's best to put the whole shebang in the fridge and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, place in parfait glasses or goblets, topping each with one or two whole shrimp.  Serve with tortilla chips on the side.

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