Shrimp Cocktail Salad

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
shrimp cocktail salad

The platter salad is a creativity platform.

These exercises use the platter, rather than the typical deep salad bowl, as the canvas for creation and a means to illustrate the universal process of creative thinking and design. No matter the creative field, the steps of creativity are the same. Here we’re using salads because, unlike painting or logistics, we all have some experience with salad. Salad is a low stake, easy medium for practicing everyday creativity. Plus, your installation eats will feed you well and shouldn’t we all be eating more salads anyway?


For an introduction to platter salads, read Welcome to Platter Salad Creativity.

This may be an old post, but the idea behind the recipe is a solid platter salad and a great reminder to consider platteralizing a favorite recipe.  In this case, it’s good old shrimp cocktail. I’d probably do a better job with it now, but you get the idea.

Shrimp Cocktail Salad ties in nicely at a holiday dinner, but it also make a great crisp, cool, quick supper.

We’ve been known to break the savvy party host golden rule by cooking stuff we’ve never tried before, even at a holiday meal.  It hasn’t always been the best idea. Looking back, our most successful celebratory dinners lean toward the traditional. Sometimes the safest route is the best, especially when our tables are set for the widest variety of ages and tastes, and getting along is even more important than eating well. It’s what most of us really want anyway, especially after a tiring decade of fusion cuisine and chasing exotic ingredients. Who wants to think too hard during the family fun?

To get things rolling, launch the holiday dinner with a big ta-da first course before all the usual fixings are passed around. One of our favorite starters is a showy Shrimp Cocktail Salad, a combination of old school continental shrimp cocktail with crisp salad greens and a creamy nose-tingling cocktail dressing. Serve it family-style on a giant cold platter and let everyone dig in.

Shrimp Cocktail Salad works nicely for a family gathering or a business dinner because it is a familiar complementary opposite to all the traditional meats and poultry. It’s cold and crisp (unlike all those mushy holiday casseroles), it’s a foolproof way to include seafood in a meaty menu (Americans love shrimp to the tune of a billion pounds annually), it’s fancy (who doesn’t bee-line it to the office party shrimp table after hitting the chardonnay bar?), and it’s easy.

Thaw a bag of frozen precooked shrimp or get a ready-to-go party platter at the seafood counter. The classic salad ingredients—romaine, red cabbage, celery, and slivers of red onion are super simple so you can scale it up or down according to the size of your crowd.

Same with the creamy dressing, a delicious mix of mayo, chili sauce, and horseradish. Scatter about four good-size shrimp per person over the greens. You may feel like ratcheting up the red cabbage to radicchio or the celery to shaved fennel. You may want to go retro with a big silver bowl of fresh saltines or opt for a couple of tall cups holding bouquets of salty breadsticks. The only rule is serve the salad icy cold. Everyone will love it and no one will miss the crushed ice.

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