Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Era-Themed Dinners

1950s-Style Shrimp Cocktails
The most fun I’ve had in the kitchen recently came as a result of menu boredom.  “Not the same old dishes yet again,” I thought to myself as the family sat down for our regular Sunday dinner.

“We need something new, something exciting,” I said.  “How about a meal may parents ate in the 1950s?”  The Fifties weren’t noted for fine dining experiences.  For most Americans it was a meat and potatoes era, and salad meant a chunk of iceberg lettuce covered in Russian dressing.  Pizza hadn’t really penetrated the heartland yet, and if my family wanted spaghetti we got canned Chef Boyardee or takeout from a local Italian restaurant.

What could I serve that would please everybody?  Shrimp Cocktail was a big deal then as an appetizer.  So were Deviled Eggs, Stuffed Celery and Jello Salads.  Simple things like Pot Roast, Steak and Hamburgers were common on 1950s dinner tables.  I could no doubt make something everyone.  The vegetarians would get Macaroni and Cheese, although not the version that called for 1 cup of butter.  Cholesterol was not on the radar in the 1950s.

To enjoy the flashback dinner, we listened to a tape mix of 1950s classics, including “Rock Around the Clock,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “You Send Me.”  Check back in awhile for our 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s meals!
Traditional Shrimp Cocktail – serves 4 
1 pound large unpeeled raw shrimp (see NOTES) 
3/4 cup ketchup 
2-3 tablespoons horseradish sauce (depending on how hot you like your sauce) 
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce  
Cook the shrimp as described in NOTE 2.  Or, if you bought cooked shrimp, peel them if required and store in the refrigerator until needed.
To make the cocktail sauce, combine the ketchup, horseradish sauce, lemon juice and Worcestershire Sauce in a bowl. 
Just before serving, arrange the shrimp on individual plates, small bowls or glasses and put a dollop of cocktail sauce in the middle.  Offer extra sauce at the table. 
NOTE 1: The terms ‘large,’ ‘jumbo’ and ‘colossal’ are often used to describe shrimp well suited to Shrimp Cocktail, but those words can mean different things at different fish counters.  Better to judge by how many shrimp are in a pound.  The largest shrimp normally used in Shrimp Cocktail are 13-15 per pound.  Other acceptable sizes are 16-20 per pound, 21-25 per pound and 26-30 per pound.  Anything smaller than 30 shrimp per pound is too small for this appetizer. 
NOTE 2: Cooking and peeling shrimp is cheaper than buying cooked, peeled shrimp.  Not only is it extremely easy to do but also pre-cooked shrimp are often overcooked and tough. 
Frozen, Unpeeled Shrimp
Cooked, Unpeeled Shrimp
Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the unpeeled shrimp into the water.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the shrimp shells turn pink and the shrimp become firm.  Don’t overcook or the shrimp will be tough.  If you’re not sure the shrimp is fully cooked, remove one from the pot and cut it in half.  The inside of the shrimp should be totally white and firm, not mushy.   Drain the shrimp and submerge in cold water to stop further cooking. 

To peel the shrimp, simply pull off and discard the shells with your fingers.

Peeling a Shrimp
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