How-To Series: Chef Michael Wurster of Malcolm's Makes Us Molecular Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail has been around as long as most people can remember. And it's probably one of the easiest hors d'oeuvres to put together. Cold shrimp, cocktail sauce, and lemon served atop Bibb lettuce. Even the most challenged home cooks can throw it together.

As tasty as it can be, even the best shrimp cocktail is kind of passé these days. Something you loved to nosh down on as a kid at your mother's cocktail parties but now is a bit meh. Well, Malcolm's chef Michael Wurster wants to evoke that memory with his molecular version. He incorporates all of the traditional ingredients in new forms. According to Wurster, "It's all about triggering their memory [diners]. If you hear, 'Oh. Your shrimp cocktail or mashed potatoes were really good, but my mom made it like this...,' you know you got them. It's all about creating a visceral experience."

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Step One
Wurster makes a Bibb lettuce purée by blanching the lettuce and then puréeing it in a food processor. He then sets it with Agar Agar -- a gelatinous form of sea kelp.

Step Two
The shrimp is poached in its shell in court bouillon -- a traditional flavorful broth for cooking foods. It's then peeled, deveined, and cut perfectly across the bottom -- no tails or heads -- to create a flat surface on which it is to stand.

Step Three
For the lemon, Wurster takes segments of a Meyer lemon and sets it on top. According to him, "It's a little sweet, some acid, and a burst of lemon."

Step Four
To create his "dippin' dots" cocktail sauce, Wurster makes his own simple recipe, runs it through a high-speed blender to break up any chunks of horseradish, and puts it in a squeeze bottle. He then puts liquid nitrogen in a bowl and adds the cocktail sauce "straight into the fury," he says. The mixture is stirred vigorously to create little "dots."

Step Five
Wurster adds the cocktail concoction atop of the shrimp. And voilà: not your mother's shrimp cocktail.

For anyone looking to try a sampling of chef Michael Wurster's food, the restaurant is hosting a Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne four-course dinner, plus passed hors d'oeuvres for $110, on March 27, at 7 p.m. The shrimp cocktail is not on the menu.

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