Modernist Cuisine Shrimp Cocktail

In the same session as Modernist Cuisine Pulpo a la Gallega, we also prepared the Shrimp Cocktail from the Plated Dishes volume of Modernist Cuisine. This preparation is quite a contrast with the traditional Avocado and Shrimp Cocktail I blogged about a few days ago. It looks very pretty and is a lot of work. The combination of beets, shrimp, passion fruit, and horseradish is original and works quite well. I liked the passion fruit ‘leather’. We were not enthusiastic about the passion fruit brown butter fluid gel or the pressure-cooked sesame seeds. The verdict? It was an interesting experience and quite tasty, but I don’t think I will make this dish again.



For the Modernist Cuisine version of Shrimp cocktail you will need:

  • Passion Fruit Brown Butter Fluid Gel
  • Passion Fruit Chewy Leather
  • Passion Fruit White Soy Sauce Vinaigrette
  • Sous-vide Baby Beet
  • Pressure-cooked Sesame Seeds
  • Sous-vide Shrimp
  • Shaved Horseradish, Mint leaves, and Lime zest julienne for garnish

Passion Fruit Chewy Leather

Ingredients: passion fruit puree, agar, and glycerol.

Modernist Cuisine does not specify how to make the passion fruit puree, so we had to figure that out by ourselves. Scoop the pulp out of the passion fruit.

Transfer to a food processor.


Blend long enough to loosen the juices, but not so long that most of the seeds will be chopped to pieces.

Pass through a sieve to obtain the passion fruit puree. (The book distinguishes between passion fruit juice and passion fruit puree. To me they are the same.)

To the passion fruit puree (I made 150 grams), add 0.8% agar and 2.5% glycerol, and stir to mix.

Spread out the mixture on a silicone mat (the best option, but I don’t own one) or parchment paper.

Spread out to a layer of 1 mm (1/24 inch) thick.

Dehydrate for 5 hours at 60ºC/140ºF.

A silicone mat would be better to obtain a smoother result, as the parchment paper absorbs some of the liquid and becomes wrinkly.

Peel the leather off the parchment paper (or silicone mat).

The passion fruit leather has a strong flavor and interesting texture that I would indeed describe as leathery.

Sous-vide Shrimp

The Modernist Cuisine recipe uses “Live spot prawns”. Those are not available around here, so I’ve used 450 grams (1 lb) of medium shrimp (30-35 to a kilogram/15 to a pound).

Vacuum seal in a single layer.

Cook sous-vide for 20 minutes at 45ºC/114ºF.

As an alternative, Modernist Cuisine specifies to steam them at 90ºC/195ºF with 100% humidity for 3 minutes.

Shock in ice-water bath.

Peel and refrigerate.

Sous-vide Baby Beets

Ingredients: 250 grams of baby beets, trimmed but not peeled, 75 grams extra virgin olive oil, 3.5 grams of salt, and 50 grams of water.

Put the beets into a vacuum pouch, add the oil…

…the water…

…and the salt.

Vacuum seal, and cook sous-vide for 1 hour at 88ºC/190ºF.

Reserve the juices.

Rub off the beet skins with paper towels.

Vacuum seal the beets with the juices and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Pressure-cooked Sesame Seeds

Ingredients: 50 grams sesame seeds, 250 grams water, 40 grams toasted sesame oil, and salt to taste. This makes a bit more than what is needed for the shrimp cocktail.

Bring some water to a boil and add the seeds.

Boil for  2 minutes to remove bitterness. (This is what Modernist Cuisine says. I thought the seeds were still a bit bitter.)


Put the seeds in a pressure cooker and add the water.

A photo of a pressure cooker is not very interesting, so I’m showing you this seedy shot instead.

Pressure cook for 90 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then strain.

Add the toasted sesame oil.

Stir and add salt to taste.

Passion Fruit Brown Butter Fluid Gel

Modernist Cuisine has a fancy way of making brown butter using a pressure cooker and adding milk powder. We decided to allow ourselves a shortcut (also because milk powder is surprisingly hard to find in a country that produces something like 100,000 metric tonnes of the stuff). And so we just cooked butter over low heat until it was brown.

Then we strained it to remove the solids.

Brown butter is called beurre noisette in French because the flavor is like hazelnuts (noisette in French).

Combine 250 grams of passion fruit juice with 1.35 grams of agar.

Bring to a boil.

Pour liquid into a beaker set in an ice-water bath, and blend with an immersion blender as the gel sets, until cooled and fluid.

It wouldn’t set and this is where we went wrong, because we added a bit more agar and reheated it. Now it did set, but the agar could be tasted too strongly.

Grate 7.5 grams of horseradish.

Combine the fluid gel with the horseradish, 50 grams brown butter, 4.5 grams malic acid, and salt to taste. We used less malic acid, as 4.5 grams is a lot. I think it does not make sense to provide such precise amounts of ingredients when you use a natural ingredient that is not standardized like passion fruit juice. Our passion fruit was not very ripe and quite acidic, so we used less malic acid.

Passion Fruit White Soy Sauce  Vinaigrette

The vinaigrette requires 3 grams of jalapeño brunoise. Brunoise is French for small dice. 3 grams is just a small part of a jalapeño.

For the vinaigrette, combine 50 grams of passion fruit juice with 10.5 grams of white soy sauce, 7 grams of lime juice, 3 grams of jalapeño brunoise, and 1 gram of malic acid. All recipes in Modernist Cuisine are this exact when it comes to the amounts of the ingredients. Since passion fruit juice can be quite different depending on how ripe the passion fruit is, we tweaked the amounts to our own taste.

Assembling the dish

After all the hard work, finally all the ingredients are ready for assembly.

Marinate the shrimp in the passion fruit vinaigrette for 3 minutes. (Not longer, as you are not making ceviche.)

Arrange the prawns on chilled plates with dots of passion fruit fluid gel, baby beets, and small mounds of pressure-cooked sesame seeds. Garnish with grated horseradish, mint leaves, passion fruit leather, and lime zest.

Wine pairing

We paired it with a sauvignon blanc, and that worked very well. Most sauvignon blanc is high in acidity, and some (especially from New Zealand) even have notes of passion fruit.


Two years ago I blogged about my favorite cookies: almond-coconut-lemon macarons. I’ve been making them for years and I keep making them. The coconut and lemon makes them more interesting than straight almond macarons (aka amaretti).

10 thoughts on “Modernist Cuisine Shrimp Cocktail

    1. Good, but not worth at all that work!
      It may be worth it with just the shrimp, passion fruit leather, beets, and garnishes. The fluid gel and sesame seeds are not worth the trouble.


  1. That is a whole lot of work for an appetizer but I imagine it was fun doing. This is one of those dishes that would work in a restaurant setting but not for a home cook given the number of steps and time involved. It does looks very tasty. 🙂


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.