Monday, February 16, 2009

Cocktail Sauce

Yesterday, I was watching my 11-year old daughter eat Chargrilled Oysters at Drago’s in New Orleans while my seven year-old son ate fried shrimp.

Oysters and shrimp are the foods from my youth which still lease a substantial plot of real estate in my heart.

While we were sitting at the counter in Drago’s, my son said, “Daddy will you please mix up some cocktail sauce for me?” As I was placing all of the ingredients in his small ramekin, my mind traveled back to a long-gone restaurant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Baricev’s restaurant in Biloxi was my family’s special occasion restaurant when we were on the coast. I ate my first raw oyster there while sitting at a table with my grandfather. He made a simple cocktail sauce for me with the ingredients on the oyster tray and the condiments on the table. It was my first exposure to horseradish. I loved it.

The next time we were there, I made my own cocktail sauce: Ketchup, lots of horseradish, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a dash of Worcestershire, and some pepper. Simple, pure, flavorful. It’s the recipe I still use today when making cocktail sauce. It’s the recipe we’ve used in the Crescent City Grill for 21 years.

Actually, at 10-year’s old— and after a lifetime of recipes— Cocktail Sauce is probably the first recipe I ever created. I had an Easy Bake Oven when I was six, but all of the recipes prepared in it were done from pre-portioned mixes. I would imagine that Cocktail Sauce is the first, working-without-a-net recipe I ever created.

Cocktail Sauce is a mainstay in Southern seafood restaurants. Mine was certainly not an original recipe, but how many are? Most recipes today are just variations on the same theme.

The exact make-up of Cocktail Sauce is debatable down South. Most people would scoff at my recipe because it doesn’t contain hot sauce. I have nothing against hot sauce, I actually bottle and sell it. I just like to get my cocktail sauce “heat” from horseradish, and a lot of it.

New Orleans horseradish is stronger than most. I am not sure what type or variety they use down there, but half the normal amount of New Orleans horseradish will be enough to open up the sinuses of even the toughest palate.

Fried shrimp was a special occasion meal for me when I was a kid. It was usually someone’s birthday or we were out of town if I was eating fried shrimp. In the meatloaf-laden, stuffed pepper and TV Dinner days of the late 1960s and early 1970s, my family hardly ever “went out” to eat.

The world has changed. People dine out all of the time. It’s a good thing for restaurateurs like me, but it might be a bad thing for families. The special occasion aspect of dining out is taken away when one eats out five nights a week.

I am chief among the sinners. My family travels and dines with me all of the time. Sitting at Drago’s I began to wonder which early childhood food memories they will consider one day. A dad’s first cocktail sauce? Maybe so.

Robert’s Cocktail Sauce

1 1 /2 cups Ketchup
3 Tbl Fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 /4 cup Prepared Horseradish (more if you’re brave, less if it’s New Orleans horseradish)
1 /2 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate two hours before serving. Yield: two cups Yield: 8-10 servings


Paul Herring said...

Great story Robert. I can still sense a trip to Russo's in Mobile as a youngster dining on shrimp and oysters. Thanks for taking me back. Holleman and Harrison will have fond memories as they grow older.

MusicCityMissy said...

Funny - it's been a long time since I thought about Baricev's. I'm pretty sure it was the first place I had raw oysters too as my dad and his Shiner buddies loved to go there when there was a competition on the coast. They had to see who could eat the most. And we made up our own sauce too and for boiled shrimp it was basically the same but with some mayo. I still make both up.

Paul Brian said...

Whatever happened to Baricev's?

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

Baricev's was my uncle Joe's place. My mother worked there (and met my dad there) when she was young. Uncle Joe passed away in 1999, but had sold the property to the Beau Rivage folks before then. I first went there when I was in 3rd grade in 1968 with my mother and younger brother. We were living in northern Idaho at the time. Playing on the beach in Biloxi one day, I stepped on something that moved, then scooted along the sand just under the waves. I chased it and picked it up; it was a softshell crab! I'd never seen one before. Uncle Joe put it in a bucket and took it away. That night at the restaurant, he wouldn't let me order anything, he just said, "I got you, Ricky. Don't worry..." Well, that stuffed softshell crab he brought for me was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted. To this day my mouth waters just thinking about it! Don't get me started on the buckets of boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce...