My friend Alexis smartly concluded this weekend that our new goals in life should be to cultivate as many friends as possible with a) vacation homes, b) access to family vacation homes and c) a strong interest in making elaborate home-cooked meals in their free time. And you know, I think she’s onto something. We spent the holiday weekend back in Highlands, North Carolina, guests of my friend Molly’s parents who were themselves out of town, allowing even more of my friends to pile in. (Remember when having parents out of town meant “kegger!”? Ah, you know you’re in your thirties when it means “mocktails” and “let’s make our own remoulade!”.) It was fantastic.
The weather didn’t much cooperate, so we didn’t get any hiking in which was a bummer, as I suspect I’m wearing every one of those meals around my midsection right now, trying to pass it off as “it’s the baby, swear” because, frankly, it’s never too soon to blame it for everything, right? But the ick weather just left us more time in one of those kitchens with more than one counter and enough cabinets that when you can’t find something, it takes a good few minutes to find where it is hiding. I tried not to get used to it.
We cooked up a storm. Ang fried green tomatoes and okra:
And Home Fries:
And Blue Cheese Coleslaw (The People, they always demand it):
And a potato salad (The People demand this too. Like I argue.):
And I think I ate my baby weight in South Carolina peaches:
Or maybe it was that smoked chicken and baby back ribs with Texas toast combo:
A couple years ago, I found a recipe for homemade cocktail sauce, handed it to Alex, and told him he should memorize it so that shrimp cocktail — one of his favorite things to eat — could become his signature dish. He made it a few times and everyone loved it, but it never caught on the way I’d hoped it would. Well, this weekend fixed that once and for all. Alex — when he was not bonding with the only other boy in the house — grilled shrimp for his cocktail sauce and everyone went nuts for it. In fact, the next night we forewent grilled chicken and smoked turkey and basically anything else so that he could make it for dinner again. And possibly breakfast. I think they might be habit-forming. I think you know what you have to cook next.
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes enough to dip three pounds of big shrimp
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ancho or other mild chili powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon juice from 1 small lemon (we use more)
Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl; adjust seasonings as necessary. Cocktail sauce keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge.
To Grill Your Shrimp Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tails attached. Toss the shrimp in a large bowl with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and fresh pepper. Grill them for just a minute or two on each side — threading them first on skewers that you’ve soaked in water makes this even easier — being careful not to overcook them. You can squeeze some lemon juice on when you’re done, for an extra hit of flavor. Serve with cocktail sauce.
To Poach Your Shrimp: Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tails attached. Bring shrimp stock (you can make this by boiling the shrimp shells for 20 minutes in three cups of water with a tablespoon of salt and straining the liquid) or water to a boil. Additionally, you might add some lemon peels, several glugs of white wine, peppercorns, a bay leaf or tarragon to the boiling liquid for extra flavor. Turn off heat and stir in shrimp; cover and let stand until firm and pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain shrimp. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop cooking, then drain again. Serve shrimp chilled with cocktail sauce.