Shrimp is synonymous with holiday entertaining and buffet spreads.
If you can afford them, it’s a sign you care to offer your family, friends or guests, something that shows them they’re really worth it. Whether big or small, shrimp are still considered to be one of the “affordable” luxuries we indulge ourselves in when it really matters.
Unfortunately, and I say this often, the dip we serve it with is purchased or even perhaps made, without giving it a second thought. It’s the ever popular Cocktail Sauce.
I’ve really got nothing against cocktail sauce, well…, actually, I’m sorry,…I just lied.
The simple fact is, I hate cocktail sauce. There, I said it.
I know cocktail sauce and shrimp “go together” like peanut butter and jelly and like a thousand other similar famous partners and pairings. That said, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t suffer from the other.
To me, when served with cocktail sauce, shrimp is no more than a seafood spoon with a tail. A simple, edible utensil that serves to shovel a spicy, sweet, ketchup like condiment into our mouths.
Oh sure, there’s some texture there, perhaps you may have detected an aftertaste of something vaguely reminiscent of seafood but for the price you’re paying for shrimp, it doesn’t serve to be out shown by a simple 24jar of sauce.
Ok…I’ll let you have your cocktail sauce, I’m sure in all honesty, there are folks that actually like the sauce more than the shrimp, but let me share with you some optional ideas because if you think about it, probably 90% of the shrimp consumed throughout the world is prepared and served hot, very little of which comes with cocktail sauce.
Let’s start with the shrimp first. And let’s presume you actually like the taste of shrimp? Why then, boil in water and pour half of the shrimp’s flavor down the drain afterwards? I want to keep the shrimp’s flavor in the shrimp. Therefore I recommend the following:
Method 1: If possible, cook your own shrimp. Purchase shell-on then peel and devein them saving the shells. Set the raw shrimp aside while you simmer the shells in a small amount of water for about 30 minutes. Strain that broth and reduce it by simmering until amber in color and almost syrupy. Add the raw shrimp, cover and steam/simmer for 3 to 5 minutes on low heat or until the shrimp are opaque and firm. Chill the shrimp with the resulting liquids until ready to serve.
Method 2: Season peeled and deveined shrimp in a small amount of oil and seasonings of your choice, then flash sauté or grill them. If grilling, I’d recommend a minimum size of 16/20 per lb (shell on) or 21/25 peeled.
Ok, hopefully you now have some tasty shrimp and are ready to make a dip. Here are some of my favorite dips / sauces you should try, keeping in mind that just because the shrimp may be cold, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dip has to be.
To save you the time of reading down through dozens of ingredients, recipes and methods, look at some of my suggestions and click on the links of those you’d most like to try.
Favorite Cold Dips / Sauces
Basil Pesto Crème… Fresh basil goes wonderfully with shrimp, I’d also recommend you have a small bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese next to this dip so that once you dip your shrimp, you can additionally add a sprinkle of cheese too!
For a taste of the Southwest, try either my Chipotle Queso Dip, or Smoky Southwest Black Bean Dip. Next to these dips, why not have a bowl of finely crushed tortilla chips to tap your dipped shrimp into. These dips with that added crunch are SPECTACULAR!
For an Asian accent, try either my Asian Style Dipping Sauce (Teriyaki Style) or for something a little on the sweeter side, my scratch recipe Cantonese Sweet & Sour Sauce.
And lastly, if you REALLY like seafood and want to take your shrimp up a notch, my simple Lobster Crème Sauce (served hot) is a home run. Even better, it’s great with all sorts of fish and shellfish dishes and freezes well.
This holiday season, think “outside the jar” and try one of these delicious shrimp dip recipes.