Why It Works
- Using a blend of ketchup and tomato puree preserves the dish's classic flavor, while cutting some of the sweetness for a more balanced result.
- Starting the shrimp in cold water and then heating it to not more than 170°F produces the plumpest, juiciest shrimp.
- A quick dry brine of salt and baking soda makes the shrimp even plumper and more tender.
Mexican shrimp cocktail, made from poached shrimp tossed in a flavorful sauce of ketchup, onion, cilantro, and citrus juice, is a wonderful cold summer dish. But it's often too sweet, thanks in large part to all that ketchup. This version strikes a slightly less saccharine note by replacing some of the ketchup with tomato puree, and it's spot-on perfect now.
- 1 3/4 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined (see note)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons fresh juice from about 8 limes, divided, plus more as needed
- 1 cup diced white onion (about 1/2 large onion)
- 3/4 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 orange
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
- Saltines, for serving
- Diced avocado, for garnish
- Mexican-style hot sauce, such as Tapatío, for serving
In a large bowl, toss shrimp with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the baking soda until evenly coated. Transfer to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together 4 tablespoons lime juice with onion, tomato puree, ketchup, cilantro, orange juice, and jalapeño.
In a medium pot, combine 2 quarts cold water with remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons salt. Add shrimp, set over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer and shrimp are just cooked through; adjust heat to make sure temperature does not go over 170°F.
Drain shrimp carefully, rinse under cold running water, then drain well. Cut shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces. Add shrimp to bowl with sauce and toss to combine. Taste, then add more lime juice if desired. Top with avocado and serve immediately with saltines and hot sauce.
You can skip the deveining if the shrimp don't have dark veins. I've also found that you can often remove the veins with tweezers from the head end of the shrimp without having to slice them down the back, which is the most common method for deveining (though that method works well, too). Exactly how much lime juice you need will depend in part on the specific brands of tomato puree and ketchup you use; adjust accordingly to get the flavor balance that tastes right to you.