Shrimp cocktail and a martini so cold it hurts your fingers: It simply does not get much better than that. Shrimp are sorted and sold by size and marked according to about how many pieces of shrimp comprise 1 pound. I like the larger size of U10/15 for shrimp cocktail (meaning, 10 to 15 pieces shrimp per pound), but if you can't find them, go for slightly smaller ones (16/20). Most importantly, make sure they are shell-on — this is crucial when poaching shrimp, as the shell acts like a protective barrier for the flesh. Smaller shrimp will cook faster, so if you're using size 16/20, knock off 30 seconds from the cook time. It sounds fussy, but it makes all the difference in the world, I swear.
For the shrimp:1.
Combine salt, sugar and 6 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.2.
Using a pair of scissors, snip through the shrimp shells, down the backs of each shrimp, stopping right where the tail begins. You're not going to remove these shells until after they're cooked, but this will make it a hell of a lot easier to peel them. If you see any dark veins running down the line that you snipped, use a paper towel to pull them out.3.
Have a timer at the ready — shrimp can overcook very easily, so you need to be prepared. Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat, add the shrimp and cover. Set a timer for 4 minutes; the shrimp should be pink and turned from translucent to opaque.4.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the shrimp and plunge them into the ice bath. Let sit until very chilled, 10-15 minutes.
For the Dilly Horseradish Cream:1.
In a medium bowl, stir together the crème fraîche and prepared horseradish.2.
Finely chop the shallot and dill leaves. Add the dill to the crème fraîche along with the chopped shallot.3.
Finely grate the zest of 1/2 lemon into the crème fraiche mixture and squeeze in the juice. Cut the remaining 1½ lemons into wedges for serving. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.
When the shrimp are completely chilled, peel and discard the shells, leaving just the tails attached. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl full of ice cubes (or over crushed ice if you're fancy). Cold shrimp is key! Serve with the lemon and Dilly Horseradish Cream.