You’re doing it wrong: We know what you’re thinking. Shrimp cocktail? Like those sad, round plastic rings of rubbery shrimp crammed around a pot of way-too-sweet cocktail sauce? Nooooo. Not these guys. This is how you get it done, the right way. Treat your shrimp properly. Don’t just throw them in boiling water and let them get tough and chewy. Delicately flavor the poaching liquid with aromatics (think celery, peppercorns, bay, and thyme). Once the liquid is infused and simmering, cut the heat before adding the shrimp. This is no cauldron. This is a slow, warm bath. No stress, no worries. And for that little bit of effort, you get plump, tender shrimp. The way it should be. As for sauces, sure you want a classic cocktail — just not too sweet. But how about a creamy, herbaceous green goddess and retro mustard curry, too? It’s not just classic. It’s classy.
For the dipping sauces
Cocktail sauce: Stir together the ketchup, horseradish, lemon zest, lemon juice and hot sauce in a small bowl. (Makes about 1/3 cup.)
Green goddess: Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, mashed anchovy, chives, parsley, and pepper in a small bowl. (Makes about 1/3 cup.)
Curry mustard: Stir together the mustard, mayonnaise, molasses, curry and lime zest in a small bowl. (Makes about 1/3 cup.)
For the shrimp
Pour the water, wine, and lemon juice into a large saucepan. Drop in the celery, onion and peppercorns. Stir in the salt. Wrap the parsley and thyme sprigs in between the bay leaves, tie the bundle together with kitchen twine, and drop it into the liquid. Turn the heat to medium. Watch the water. After about 4 minutes, bubbles will appear on the bottom on the pan. At around 6 minutes, the bubbles will rise to the surface. After about 8 minutes, the liquid should start to steam. When that happens, turn the heat to medium-low and let steep, uncovered, to infuse the liquid with the aromatics, about 5 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water and place near the stove.
Turn the heat off under the saucepan and add the shrimp. Stir to distribute the shrimp around the poaching liquid. After 2 to 3 minutes, the shrimp shells will turn pink and the flesh opaque and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove immediately to the ice bath. Stir the shrimp in the ice bath just until they are cool, less than a minute. Remove to a bowl and peel, leaving the tails on. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with dipping sauces.
Strained poaching liquid can be frozen in small portions for other uses such as risotto or soup — or even for cooking your next batch of poached shrimp — without losing any flavor.
For the shrimp
For the cocktail sauce
For the green goddess sauce
For the curry mustard