Shrimp cocktail a hit, party or no party

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My favorite thing about fancy parties? They almost always include a shrimp cocktail appetizer — platters of giant, plump shrimp just waiting to be dunked into a piquant cocktail sauce.

But there's no reason you have to wait for fancy parties to enjoy this treat. All you need is an excuse. And to me, there's none better than an Oscar viewing party. Best yet, shrimp cocktail is easy to make, can be done in advance, and you don't even have to cook the shrimp yourself (but it is better if you do).

The best shrimp are flash frozen within hours of being caught. This preserves the flavor and texture of the shrimp. Keep them frozen until just before you want to serve or cook them. When you are ready, thaw the shrimp under cold running water. This is essential to preserving the texture of the shrimp.

Shrimp Cocktail with Bloody Mary Sauce

Start to finish: 20 minutes; Servings: 6

Kosher salt

2 lemons, quartered

2 pounds jumbo shell-on raw shrimp, thawed if frozen

For the sauce:

½ cup ketchup

½ cup Heinz Chili Sauce

Zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Juice of ½ small lime

1 heaping tablespoon prepared white horseradish (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon pureed chipotle peppers in adobo (or more to taste)

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) vodka

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Pinch garlic salt

Celery salt, for serving

Fill a large (6- to 8-quart) stockpot halfway with water, then add 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the lemons, then return the water to a boil. Add the shrimp, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave the shrimp in the water for 2 to 4 minutes, or until cooked through, pink and curled. The larger the shrimp, the longer they will take to cook.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover the shrimp, then stir to cool them. When the shrimp are cool, peel and devein them, then pat them dry and transfer to a platter or plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the sauce, in a medium non-reactive bowl, mix together the ketchup, chili sauce, lemon juice and zest, lime juice, horseradish, pureed chipotle, vodka, Worcestershire and garlic salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you like a lot of horseradish and chipotle, you may want to add more. The sauce can be made and refrigerated in a glass jar up to one week in advance.

Sprinkle celery salt around the rim of a serving dish. Transfer the cocktail sauce to a serving bowl and place in the center of the serving dish. Arrange the chilled shrimp around the edges.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 25 calories from fat (11 percent of total calories); 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 230 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 31 g protein; 1150 mg sodium.