The Quick 3-Ingredient Shrimp Cocktail Sauce For When You're In A Pinch

Have you ever been tempted by a fishmonger's bounty of gorgeous, fresh, plump shrimp and found yourself impulsively purchasing a pound or two with the thought that they'll make a delicious shrimp cocktail? You hurry home with your haul and go to the trouble of brewing up a court bouillon, poaching the shellfish, and chilling them down only to discover you've forgotten a crucial element: You have no cocktail sauce. Sweet, slightly-briny shrimp are indeed a delight, but the bracing tang of that dip is de rigueur.

Well don't worry too much, because you just might have everything you need on hand for a classic cocktail sauce that is powerfully punchy and better than store-bought by leaps and bounds. Most everyone has ketchup in the fridge, so start by adding a half or whole cup, depending on how much sauce you'll need, to a mixing bowl. Into this, stir a heaping tablespoon of jarred grated horseradish, noting that you can start with less or dilute with extra ketchup if the result is too pungent. Finally, the kicker that most people might not think of is a teaspoon or two of fresh squeezed lemon juice and some grated fresh lemon zest to add fruity brightness to the sauce. Stir thoroughly, taste, and adjust as you see fit before refrigerating the sauce to meld the flavors.

Gathering the ingredients for a simple and delicious condiment

The ingredients listed above are not special or strange in any way, which is the beauty of this simple, but effective condiment. Really any commercial ketchup will do for cocktail sauce, and you may even find that certain higher-end varieties lack the specific qualities that make the end product so iconic.

Horseradish comes in many forms. While freshly grated root would provide the most intense flavor, likely you don't have this in your fridge, thus undermining the thesis of the piece. Jarred grated horseradish with the fewest number of additives is the top choice here, but many people will find their jar of horseradish is "prepared," meaning packed in vinegar and salt with sugar, mustard seeds, and other spices added. This can be used, but do note the effect the other ingredients will have on your cocktail sauce. It should go without saying, but creamy or creamed horseradish is, here, verboten.

Lemon juice and zest are pretty straightforward, and the three-ingredient shrimp cocktail sauce is complete once they're added. If you want to punch up the flavor even more, though, try stirring in a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce for added spice and a bit more of a vinegar kick. For heat sans the acid, add a sprinkling of cayenne pepper to taste. Finely minced canned chipotle peppers also find a welcome home in cocktail sauce, bringing sweetness, acid, abundant heat, and a pleasant smokiness to the mix.