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Dorothy Dean presents: Get the Cinco de Mayo fiesta started with vivacious Mexican shrimp cocktail

UPDATED: Wed., May 5, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Wednesday commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French Empire during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This was a huge feat for the Mexicans, as their army was significantly smaller than that of the French.

The holiday is more popularly celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico, generating beer sales parallel to the Super Bowl.

And going arm in arm with a cold cerveza or pitcher of margaritas is the obvious cuisine: Mexican (like we need an excuse to eat tacos).

To get the fiesta started, I’m sharing a recipe for coctel de camarones, or Mexican shrimp cocktail.

It’s a vibrant dish chock-full of plump shrimp and crunchy vegetables swimming in a zesty lime tomato sauce, and it couldn’t be easier to make.

If starting with precooked shrimp, chopping and tossing are the only skills required. If using raw shrimp, it gets a tad bit technical. You’ll have to boil a pot of water!

Once the shrimp are cooked, peeled and cleaned, half are chopped and half are left whole (this makes for a prettier presentation). The shrimp are then tossed with a medley of chopped onion, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Then a mixture of tomato and clam juice cocktail, ketchup, lime juice, hot sauce, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce is stirred in. The dish is covered and chilled, and, just before serving, diced avocado is added.

Flavorful and refreshing, it makes a vivacious party appetizer or light summer meal.

Traditionally served with saltine crackers, it also pairs well with tortilla chips, tostadas, lettuce cups or over rice.

Pour it in a bowl to serve a crowd or into individual margarita glasses or goblets for a festive presentation.

The tomato and clam juice cocktail is more widely known as Clamato juice. It’s commonly used for cocktails like the bloody Caesar and michelada (a Mexican beer drink).

If you like spicy, there’s also a “picante” version that would be excellent, as well. While the seasoned blend of tomato juice and clam broth can sound off-putting, I assure you the clam flavor is subtle and comes across as savory, not fishy.

But if you’re not feeling it, I’d recommend using Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix or V8 instead.

And feel free to add additional veggies such as jicama, bell peppers and corn.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Adapted from allrecipes.com.

1 ½ pounds cooked or raw medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed off all but 4 shrimp (if using raw, see note below)

½ yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced

1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup chopped cilantro

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 ½ cups chilled tomato and clam juice cocktail (such as Clamato)

1 cup chilled ketchup

¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons Mexican hot pepper sauce (such as Valentina or Tapatio)

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 avocados, diced

For garnish: lime wedges and cilantro sprigs

Reserve the 4 tail-on shrimp for garnish by keeping them chilled and covered in plastic wrap in a refrigerator until ready for use.

With the remaining shrimp, cut half into large chunks, leaving the other half whole (for a more attractive presentation).

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp, onion, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and black pepper until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the tomato and clam juice cocktail, ketchup, lime juice, hot pepper sauce, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce; stir the dressing into the shrimp mixture. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 1 hour.

Before serving, gently fold in the avocados. Garnish with reserved tail-on shrimp, lime and cilantro and serve with saltines or tortilla chips.

Note: If using raw shrimp, add the following ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the raw shrimp; cover and let sit for 8 minutes. Transfer the shrimp into an ice bath or rinse with cold water to chill.

5 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

½ yellow onion, cut in large chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 bay leaves

6-8 peppercorns

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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