grilled shrimp cocktail

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.

seedy watermelonwatermelon seeds

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:

okra was fried

I made Marion Cunningham’s buttermilk pancakes as adapted by this Eggbeater, swapping the buttermilk with yogurt:

i made pancakespancakesmade some pancakesmaple syrup, pancakes

And Home Fries:

home fries

And White Lily Biscuits, which I’ve been preoccupied with baking since I read this article:

white lily biscuits

And Blue Cheese Coleslaw (The People, they always demand it):

blue cheese cole slaw

And a potato salad (The People demand this too. Like I argue.):

potato salad

And I think I ate my baby weight in South Carolina peaches:

south carolina peaches

Or maybe it was that smoked chicken and baby back ribs with Texas toast combo:

north carolina barbecue

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.

cocktail sauce ingredientsjumbo shrimpsgrilling jumbo shrimpalex's grilled shrimp cocktail

One year ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Two years ago: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Shrimp Cocktail
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

131 comments on grilled shrimp cocktail

  1. All my favorite things! We had pesto grilled shrimp, ribs, and strawberry pound”crack” shortcakes, potato salad with green olives (reminded me of egg and olive salad). Yummy!

  2. Liz

    My husband is going to love me forever and ever and ever; if he could only eat one food for the rest of his life, it would be shrimp cocktail!

  3. Great weekend! And thanks for the plug for SC peaches. Those Georgians, they think they’ve got the best peaches. But we know better.

    When I was first pregnant, and did not yet know it, I visited Paris. In one week I gained 7 lbs. It was because I ate pate at every meal. And for other reasons. But I totally blamed the baby. I think it’s a tradition, so you go right ahead.

  4. MJ

    How’d those biscuits work for you? Two years ago we got a country ham for Christmas and I decided to make biscuits. I can bake, and I had the Edna Lewis recipe and the White Lily bag recipe. And, four test batches later (all eaten by happy squirrels after I threw those lard smelling hocky pucks into the yard in disgust) we had cornbread on Christmas. The biscuit is my white whale, or holy grail, or something. Bane of existance might be closer.

  5. Simple and delicious! Can’t wait to give this a try. Shrimp is actually the one type of fresh seafood I can purchase without having to drive 100 miles+.

  6. That all looks amazing. Also if you are on a White Lily biscuit kick, you should try them as the base for strawberry shortcakes: made with just White Lily Flour Self Rising, heavy cream or milk, Vanilla Extract and raw sugar to dip the pre-cut biscuits in before baking.

    It’s about the easiest and most amazing thing ever.

  7. Divine! From the photography to the food everything looks luscious and utterly delectable. It sounds like a lovely weekend too. Good food, friends and a beautiful locale — there aren’t many things in life to top that.

    I think I may have to become a much better cook if I keep coming to your blog.

  8. momsdacook

    I think either you’ve been reading my mind or I’ve been reading yours. Sat. I found beautiful strawberries and decided to make strawberry shortcake for bbq with friends. I went to look at your biscuit recipes and…you’d posted a recipe for strawberry shortcake. I tried it and the biscuits were fabulous. For an appetizer I made Ina Garten’s roasted shrimp cocktail with her sauce recipe. I imagine grilled shrimp are similar to roasted and they were the best shrimp we’ve had.

  9. So nice and simple! compared to the other delicious elaborate looking dishes you made!

    I do lik2 effortless cookouts. I made banh mi yesteraday. Vietnamese pork sandwiches with brined pork and homemade pate. Pretty effortless and addictive too!

  10. The photos are stunning and the shrimp looks especially amazing. As soon as the weather here is warm enough, this one is going to be top of my list.
    I hope a good time was had by all, judging by the food, it would be hard not to.

  11. Jessica

    I’m starving now! I love Highlands, NC. My boyfriend and I took a waterfall vacation when we first started dating eight years ago and it was one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever had. There are very lovely waterfalls in the area around Highlands, including several you can walk behind, and one you can DRIVE behind!

  12. Susan

    I’m not much for seafood, but shrimp cockatail is the exception! Great idea grilling the shrimp. I like that poaching idea too. The sauce sounds great with the addition of the chilipowder. Thanks, Deb. You rock, Alex!

  13. browngrl

    I have only made two of your recipes: broccoli slaw and heuvos rancheros. I can’t make any other recipes because right now my diet consists ENTIRELY of these two foods. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these two recipes.

  14. I love shrimp. I made a pound of it with fava beans in vinaigrette yesterday morning intending on eating it for the next couple of lunches at work. Not surprisingly, the whole batch was gone in less time it took me to prep the favas. I know, I’m gross. And my “dude I’m pregnant stop staring at me in horror” excuse is long gone.

  15. I am salivating, which should really be a crime considering there is no way one human can possibly eat as much as I did this past weekend and still want more. Namely, everything pictured above. I totally read that NY times white lily article too, and immediately ordered myself some! yum biscuits.

  16. cs

    If you can find them- gulf shrimp or other wild shrimp are sooooo much better than the commercially farm raised stuff. I thought I didn’t like shrimp anymore until I discovered gulf shrimp. Super yum!!

  17. LOVE the twist on Shrimp Cocktail. What a way to ‘Summerize” it!!
    Can’t wait to give it a go along with your coffeecake recipe. I am making at a friend’s cabin next weekend!

  18. Oh, my. I just got into work and read that post from start to finish twice over – the photos are amazing and it all looks perfect! Now I’m yearning for and already mentally planning a weekend of friends and food in a beautiful house…

  19. Rhonda

    Wow, you did go southern. I was always told that about biscuits, don’t twist your wrist. But then everyone has their own way. What did you do with the okra? I miss my dad’s fried okra, but please, no boiled with tomatoes as my mom loves…slime factor. And guys always need a signature dish, glad Alex found his, with the man grill thing. My mom always blamed us kids for her losing her figure so go ahead, you’re a mom now.

  20. um, yes ma’m! will have to make soon; my photographer is a shrimp fanatic.

    as for fried okra, my mother-in-law makes the lightest, most amazing, addictive kind I’ve ever had. my partner’s assignment when she was last home in Shreveport (besides “please try to wheedle a bag of local pecans out of her”) was to watch closely as the okra was made…we’re planting some down here in Texas and hope to spend the summer attempting to replicate her genius, and eating every batch in between!

  21. My husband would love these, but I don’t know anything about peeling and deveining shrimp (and generally don’t touch meat). It would be great to make these for him though. Is it hard to peel and devein shrimp?

  22. My boyfriend is from Highlands, North Carolina! Hardly anyone knows where it is, even people from the State. Isn’t it gorgeous up there?

    All those recipes look perfect.

  23. Linda

    I live in the so-called Mid-Atlantic, once considered part of the South. I think of myself as Southern, having a love for all things labeled as such, but especially the food. When my children were growing up, I made buttermilk biscuits at least once a week, usually more often. I always used regular unbleached white flour. I believe I tried White Lily only once (it’s readily available here), but was unhappy with the results. I didn’t get the high rise, crusty outside & moist interior I got with regular flour. So I didn’t become an advocate for White Lily flour, but good luck on your next try with White Lily, Deb, & my apologies to all White Lily lovers!

  24. Sarah Docherty

    Deb, this is all so incredible. Thanks for all of the links! Most importantly for linking to what you made last year — Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I came on your site to look exactly for that, but when I saw that you updated I, of course, had to read the whole post where lo and behold! there was the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe I came looking for! What a wonderful coincidence.

  25. Deb — I am a new reader and boy-oh-boy do I LOVE this blog!! I knew we were kindred spirits when I saw you made fried okra and, coincidentally, your “one year ago” recipe was strawberry-rhubarb pie. What fond memories I have of those two delicacies as a child growing up. Thank you. I am learning a lot and enjoying every single post. All your work is well worth it. Thank you, thank you!!

    Oh, yea, and did you batter the okra in cornmeal?? My mouth waters just thinking about it.

  26. Carrie

    Inquiring minds need to know: How did those pancakes compare to the Martha’s recipe you previously posted? They sure do look purty.

    1. deb

      Carrie — Excellent question. I still prefer the Martha recipe. However — big caveat! — because I was cooking these at high altitude where ingredients can act differently, it’s hard to know if my impression of them — tasty, wonderful, but may not trump my favorite — was a fair one.

      White Lily comments — You know, I really liked the biscuits. I was impressed! However, my favorite biscuit recipe remains this one (chives are optional, of course). However, same caveat as above, I need to try this recipe at home with the WL flour to see for sure if they don’t compare, since altitude may have been a factor.

  27. Kelly

    A great memorial day wknd filled with smitten kitchen – chocolate carmel crack(ers), raspberry buttermilk cake, and broccoli slaw. All were great hits. Thanks.

  28. Good food, good friends, can’t ask for anything more for a great holiday weekend!

    Everything looks beautiful. We just bought some shrimp, so we’ll be trying your shrimp cocktail recipe.

  29. Wow… I never thought shrimp cocktail could ever be anything else but the original! I’m liking this… and everything else I’ve made from your site- OMG- it’s all amazing! ;-)

  30. Ohhh, I am allergic to peaches but they look so good.

    I don’t get why you call those things biscuits and not scones! I dunno, I lived in the States for a while and never managed to figure out what “biscuits” are. Here of course biscuits are flat crunchy and sweet and for eating with tea, or flat crunchy and savoury and for eating with cheese.

  31. Job

    Deb! Pictures look gorgeous! Just one question, what did you do with the peaches. The salad looks stunning!Oh and let nobody tell you other than blaming the baby :-)

  32. Stacey

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with this particular post, but I have to say this (long-winded though it is) … I currently have about 16 hours of documentaries recorded and waiting for me, 2-3 loads of laundry to wash, a pile of un-read books, baking of my own to do AND a beef & Guinness stew that needs making for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner, and I just spent 3 hours straight reading your blog. It’s amazing – your wit, humour & recipes (not to mention the photos you take! I would KILL for some of the fresh produce you can get!) are so entertaining that I didn’t even notice the time going by until my cat started smacking me in the head to remind me it’s dinner time.

    Just saying is all. :-D Keep up the awesome work

  33. Oh it looks like a well eaten weekend! All this bloody rain is good for something!

    I have a shrimp cocktail (or any way) secret. I use frozen raw shrimp, they are cheeper and always on hand but here is the good part. I thaw them in a brine. Warm water, non-iodized salt, sugar and more than you would think of the spice of your choice (I like cayenne but the spice is completely optional). It only takes 20-30 minutes and you have plumped fabulous shrimp to start any dish with… mmmmm!

  34. I do not like seafood at all, but my husband loves it, and this looks like he would enjoy it muchly, so I shall try making it for him.

    I made your slice and bake cookies yesterday, including some brown sugar and cinnamon and rolling before making it log like. They are lovely! I am going to make plain ones and dip them in chocolate to give as a gift.

    Today, I am going to attempt a variation of your chicken and dumplings(with herby dumplings), as it is a slightly chilly, funny weathery day here in Scotland, and comfort food is needed!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  35. Wow, what a feast! I wish I could have been part of that party! There really is nothing better than spending time with good friends and cooking, cooking, cooking…

  36. Carol in NC

    About those biscuits MJ #9… no offense to Edna Lewis, whom I love, love, love, but she was after all from Virginia and I’m convinced that’s not Deep South enough to really know a good biscuit. I grew up on the Mississippi river and, well, enough said.

    Cook them in a round cake pan, sides almost touching and they’ll be more tender. And for heaven’s sake, don’t use that nasty lard in a biscuit! I usually grate frozen butter (a little less than 1/3 of a cup for 2 cups of flour), and using buttermilk is a must. Good luck!

  37. Liz

    For Seanna Lee: Peeling and deveining is pretty easy. Take your shrimp (thawed if using frozen) and slide your finger under the shell from the bottom (where the legs are). Then, holding the body of the shrimp under the shell, grab the tail and pull. It should come right off. To devein, use a paring knife to slit the back of the shrimp from head to tail, and you’ll see a long string running down the cut (with or without “stuff” in it). Pull this out and discard.

    Or, just buy peeled and deveined shrimp! :-)

  38. Nadia

    Asked a U.S. ex-cookery editor about the scone-biscuit conundrum today because I get so confused when Americans refer to biscuits. After some discussion we concluded that what Americans call cookies are (sweet) biscuits to the Brits, and what Americans call biscuits are (savory) scones (sort of) to the Brits.

  39. Deb, your suggestion of finding friends with vacation homes has totally inspired me to do the same–especially living an hour from the Pacific Coast.
    The shrimp look so juicy and amazing grilled vs. poached. I will try the addictive cocktail sauce. Here in South America, I am a food/wine writer in Santiago, Chile, they gobble up shrimp with Salsa Golf, which is like a cocktail sauce with copious amounts of homemade mayo. Matt Bites blog just wrote about this after his trip to Buenos Aires.
    Cheers for a great blog. The photography is stunning.
    Tchau, Liz

  40. Molly

    Deb –

    They all look amazing – made the buttermilk cake last weekend and was a huge hit with the in-laws!! Quick question – after grilling the shrimp, did you serve immediately, room temp or chilled?

    1. deb

      Molly — Up to you. We had them right away.

      Sandra — Ang doesn’t use recipes. But they were soaked for a bit in buttermilk, then dipped in Wondra flour, then egg, then a mix of cornmeal, Wondra, salt, pepper and cayenne and deep-fried.

      Mamaliga — Deep fried. Preparation similiar to the above.

  41. Marla

    I grill shrimp all the time and recommend marinating and grilling them in their shells — they stay very tender. They can easily be deveined by snipping the shell along the back with kitchen scissors and whipping the vein out. I also recommend adding Old Bay seasoning to the shrimp marinade — it is a perfect complement to cocktail sauce.

  42. Ang

    Here’s the Fried Green Tomato technique I used. Soak sliced tomatoes in an egg white/buttermilk mixture with a few dashes of Tabasco for about 15 minutes. Coat each slice in Wondra, then dip it back in the milk bath, then coat it with cornmeal/salt/pepper/cayenne mixture. FRY.

  43. What makes your food all that much more tempting are your photographs. They really are magnificent. I am just starting out with this whole food blog thing and am just using a point and shoot. Soon I hope to upgrade and have photos that make my food looks as delectable as yours.

  44. Susan

    I’ve made those “Dot’s Diner” biscuits. They are The Best. It’s the only recipe I’ve use for biscuits since I found it. that I’ve seen the shortcake recipe..I’m so tempted to omit the sugar and yolks and see how that plays out. I guess some of us never stop looking, even though we think we’ve found nirvana!

  45. vicki

    Welcome to my world. I live a hour from Highlands. Isn’t it lovely?
    Glad you had some of our downhome cooking and enjoyed the weekend.
    The food looks marvelous.

  46. AngAk

    wonderful idea to grill the shrimp—and such fun that your DH has a signature dish! confession time—did anyone else have to look up the definition of “forewent”?? Just never have heard it used before. learn something new everyday!

  47. Ann

    Okay, now I’m hungry. Will definitely try the grilled shrimp and adding chili powder to my cocktail sauce. Now i’m ready for the weekend!

  48. Yay NC! After my four years of undergrad at UNC, I have totally come to appreciate the wonderfully souther cuisine present in NC. And the highlands are such an awesome area, too. Sorry the weather was ick–oh well, more time to stay inside and eat all of this fabulous food!

  49. Marisol

    I nearly squealed when you typed ‘South Carolina peaches’! They are the best. You should probably make a special trip later in the summer to revel in peach glory. It will be blueberry season too. And coincidentally, your one year ago blog is strawberry rhubarb pie and I just saw/touched/bought rhubarb for the first time yesterday! Your blog brightens me day!

  50. Melanee

    We ate this for dinner last night and my husband said it was the best shrimp he’d ever eaten. What a great website! I’m so glad I found it.

  51. Anna

    we had a neighbourhood bbq today (the first ever) in the comunial backyard – i made your coleslaw for the buffet and everyone was very impressed. as i live in germany people tend to make pasta or potato salads and so it was something very different!! thank you and keep up the good work

  52. Skip

    WOW!!! Amazing!!! My son’s girlfriend saw this on your site and just had to have them. My son and girlfriend bought fresh shrimp when they left D.C. and we grilled them at our house over the weekend. The flavor was FANTASTIC!!!! They were so easy to make. I may never cook shrimp another way again!

  53. Lisa

    Made the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake 4 times this weekend, for us and 3 events we took it to. EXCELLENT! But I have a burning question: What kind of camera do you use? Your food photos are excellent. Thanks for a great site.

  54. Christy

    Highlands! My sister used to spend her summers there manning the Kilwin’s fudge shop. Now I need to go see if it’s still there. Man, you brought back the memories from the last time I was there.

  55. Cindy

    I had a party at my house this past weekend, and I made this for one of my appetizers. YUM!!!! Everyone loved it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  56. Wondra many a southern cook won’t fry without it! I had to read this post with the shrimp. I make a Tostados de Compuesta Shrimp, it is to die for. I also love Shrimp El Diablo! Some days I think I am Forrest Gump!

  57. Laura C.

    Fried green tomatoes and ribs. I am home sick. Can’t wait to try the grilled shrimp cocktail. Looks unbelievable.

  58. Sarah

    Thanks again for the lovely cooking demonstration the other night and for answering all our questions! If it’s all right, I have one more East Village/NYC question for you- any recommendations on where to buy shrimp that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? We love having a bag in the freezer for when the craving hits :)

    1. deb

      Hi Sarah — I don’t. I don’t buy it very often, and when I do, it’s usually fresh because I’m weird about seafood. I hope someone else will jump in. Trader Joes, maybe?

  59. m o o n marked

    Most shrimp sold is previously flash frozen and defrosted when ready to sell—even places like Whole Foods and Citarella, which is where I buy my seafood when I have the $$$ to do so. The prices are high but so is the quality and usually the selection is diverse and seasonal. The high cost of seafood in those places, however, is due to the costs of dishing sustainable and not using preservatives to treat the shrimp. If this is important to you, always ask—some stores just sell at high prices; for example, Fairway shrimp is not always preservative free but costs almost as much as Whole Foods.

    Otherwise, if cost is the key factor, the most inexpensive place to buy seafood is in Chinatown (Manhattan, Queens OR Brooklyn). You can buy a box of shrimp still frozen (for $20-$25) and break it into smaller freezer bags to use as needed. If you know your seafood, this is also the best place to get fresh fish and live crabs and lobsters outside of a farmer’s market (where vendors bring seafood fresh from local waters.

  60. Amanda

    Deb, I always come to SK when I want to make a recipe with a certain ingredient to see what delicious recipes you’ve already perfected. I’m sad I don’t see any okra recipes…this is the only post. Since it’s in season now, can you share your favorite okra application?

  61. Michael

    Deb, I know you’re not a big seafood fan, but please add more recipes for those of us who can’t live without les fruits de mer. You have more recipes for rhubarb than seafood! My girlfriend and I follow your recipes religiously, and we would greatly appreciate it if you would post more fish/shrimp/mussels/scallop/lobster recipes. Seafood is the best summertime protein. If you’re not fond of eating it, we’re happy to be your taste-testers!

  62. Lorri

    I love grilling shrimp. TIP: thread shrimp on two skewers ( skewers close to each other, side-by-side). The shrimp can touch, no need to leave space betweenn the shrimp

    The benefit of using two skewers: the shrimp will not spin around. Easy to lay the kebab flat and flip it