It’s the time of year for an indulgence or two, just some easy old fashioned comforts. (Think Valentine’s Day.)

Take shrimp. When I was a kid, my dad considered shrimp cocktail the height of elegance: five plump pink jumbos arched on the edge of a martini glass filled with horseradish-spiked ketchup (aka cocktail sauce). It symbolized his willingness to splurge on those nights we dressed up to go out to the fancy steakhouse in town.

To this day, whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, a nice shrimp cocktail makes a classy start to a simple dinner of grilled steak or chicken. Or, when served with good crusty bread and a fresh, crunchy salad, it’s a dinner all on its own, light enough to follow with something decadent and chocolate.

Retailers judge shrimp by the number of shrimp it takes to make a pound (the 15 or 20 per pound size is about right for this recipe that serves two). Shrimp are highly perishable, so if you’re buying them fresh, ask the fish seller if you can take a sniff. Avoid any that are slimy or falling apart, have major black spots or yellowing shells.

In most cases, you’re better off buying frozen shrimp (often the ones in the seafood case have been previously frozen and then thawed). For shrimp that have been harvested sustainably, look for the labels that note approvable independent regulatory groups such as Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and Naturland. Most of our Twin Cities grocers, co-ops and independent specialty shops carry them.

Buy shrimp shell-on because those shells can later be simmered into a terrific stock for soups and stews, plus they are easy to remove.

Thaw frozen shrimp in a colander run under cold water. Then pat them dry with a paper towel. It’s easy to remove the dark veins that run along the shrimp’s back, but it’s not critical, and frankly, I don’t bother. If you decide to do so, make a shallow incision through the curved part of the shell and pick the vein out with your fingers or a tweezers.

Granted, you can buy precooked, shelled shrimp from the grocer. But the truth is that they do not taste as good as those you cook yourself.

Once cooked, shrimp can be held for a day in the refrigerator, so it’s best to buy only what you know you’ll eat in one sitting. And isn’t that what makes shrimp cocktail so special?

Shrimp Cocktail

Serves 2.

Note: This recipe is easily doubled or tripled or cut in half for one. Shrimp spoil quickly so cook only what you plan to eat in one sitting. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 small leek, white part only, roughly chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

• 1 tbsp. coarse salt

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 tbsp. paprika

• 3 black peppercorns

• 1 tsp. whole coriander

• About 8 to 10 jumbo raw shrimp (15 to 20 per pound), shells removed but tails left on, deveined if preferred

• Any or all of 3 cocktail sauces (see recipes)

Directions

In a medium pot with 2 cups cold water, add leek, garlic, salt, lemon juice, bay leaf, paprika, peppercorns and coriander. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer for about 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked through (the shells will be pink).

Drain into a colander and allow the shrimp and spices to cool to room temperature. Place in a bowl, cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Before serving the shrimp, shake off any of the spices. Peel the shrimp, if desired. Serve with trio of cocktail sauces.

Nutrition information per serving with 2 tablespoons remoulade:

Calories 240 Fat 21 g Sodium 555 mg

Carbohydrates 3 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 10 g Cholesterol 90 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ lean protein, 4 fat. 

Classic Remoulade

Makes 1/2 cup.

Note: Do not keep any leftover sauce the shrimp have been dipped into. If you have extra sauce that shrimp haven’t touched, store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/2 c. prepared mayonnaise

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 tbsp. ketchup

• 1 tbsp. drained capers

• 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions

Whisk all of the ingredients together into a small bowl. 

Curry Dip

Makes 1/2 cup.

Note: Do not keep any leftover sauce the shrimp have been dipped into. If you have extra sauce that shrimp haven’t touched, store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/4 c. plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

• 1/4 c. prepared mayonnaise

• 2 tsp. fresh lime juice

• 2 tsp. curry powder, or to taste

• 1/2 tsp. honey, to taste

Directions

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. 

Maple Mustard Dip

Makes 1/2 cup.

Note: Do not keep any leftover sauce the shrimp have been dipped into. If you have extra sauce that shrimp haven’t touched, store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/4 c. maple syrup

• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 2 tbsp. coarse mustard

• 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

• Pinch red pepper flakes

Directions

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.