Campechana

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I had a favorite menu item at our local country club’s restaurant that sadly disappeared when the chef moved on. It was campechana – a combination of shrimp and avocados in a zesty tomato sauce, served chilled with tortilla chips.

Never did I realize it was an actual “thing” until I googled it. Turns out, recipes for campechana are commonplace! By definition, it’s a seafood cocktail from Campeche, a coastal state in Mexico.

I immediately grabbed one of my Rick Bayless cookbooks, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, published in 2000, and if you look closely at the cover photo, there is the shrimp cocktail!!!

I have a soft spot for Rick Bayless for many reasons. He’s a passionate chef and student of Mexican cookery, who been married to his wife forever, with whom he’s collaborated on books. (As well as with their daughter!) So I respect that. He also does a lot of charitable work in Chicago and in Mexico and is a total nerd.

But mostly for this.

Fifteen years ago I took my daughter to Chicago for her 18th birthday. It was all about shopping, visiting the sites, and enjoying great meals. I had made reservations at Frontera, and Charlie Trotter’s for our two big nights out.

At Frontera, which was outstanding in every way, I saw that Rick Bayless himself was in the kitchen, and asked if we could say hello. And he was kind and took this memorable photo with Emma.

I decided to make the shrimp cocktail recipe that’s pictured on the book cover. It’s not called campechana but a ceviche, which seems odd because it doesn’t fit my definition of ceviche. But Mr. B. Knows his stuff, so I will not quibble.

Ceviche de Camaron
4 hefty servings

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 generous pound smallish shrimp, peeled, de-veined
1/2 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce
About 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to smooth out sharpness)
1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jicama (or 1/2 cup of each)
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

Bring 1 quart salted water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Scoop in the shrimp, cover and let the water return to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat, set the lid askew and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 10 minutes.

Spread out the shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Toss the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 lime juice, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.


In a small strainer, rinse the onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid.

Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, optional olive oil, cucumber and/or jícama and avocado.

Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Spoon the ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls: garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime.

Serve with tostadas, tortilla chips or saltines to enjoy alongside.

The ceviche is best made the day it is served.

If you want a more Southwestern-inspired Campechana, I found one on Epicurious that I’m trying next. It has roasted green chiles and includes crab meat!

So what I’ve gathered, whether it’s called Campechana, or a seafood cocktail, or a ceviche-style shrimp cocktail, the basic ingredients are similar, being shrimp and avocado in (typically) a red sauce. And from there you can get as spicy and zingy and creative as you wish!

The campechana I remember had no cucumber or jicama, but they added a great texture.

The only other difference I can detect from my campechana that I loved and this and other similar shrimp cocktail recipe is the amount of red sauce and the viscosity of the red sauce. I have to say I prefer a bit more sauciness than what’s in this recipe.

Curry Ketchup

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I’ve mentioned a few times that my eating life practically revolves around condiments. I love them all. Mustards, ketchups, chutneys, chimichurris, mayos, butters, you name it, I love them. I look at a condiment, and immediately know what food I’m pairing it with.

I’m so excited to have discovered a new condiment for my repertoire – curry ketchup. I was “shopping” on Amazon and somehow this popped up. I had to have it. German curry ketchup!

Shortly afterwards, I was on the blog called the Daring Gourmet, and there was Kimberly’s recipe for home-made curry ketchup, of German origin.

You can imagine how excited I was. Everything home-made is so much better than what you can buy.

Best German Curry Ketchup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 small clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons high-quality curry powder*
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup natural ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions just until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder, paprika, cloves and allspice and cook for 30 seconds.


Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and purée until smooth.


Let the mixture cool completely and then refrigerate for a day before using to allow time for the flavors to meld.

To use, Kimberly recommends serving the curry ketchup with prepared bratwurst (currywurst) and fries. She recommends sprinkling the brats with curry powder, just like in her photo, below, which I forgot to do.

I’m not a big French fry person, so I roasted some red potatoes instead.

This ketchup is magnificent. It’s multi-faceted, and not strong in any one way. And it’s nice and thick. I have no idea why mine isn’t as red in color as hers.

And, the ketchup is really good with the potatoes also.

I tried a bratwurst with the purchased curry ketchup, left, and my home-made version, on the right. There was truly no comparison. The purchased ketchup tasted anemic compared to home-made!

I can’t wait to make more curry ketchup, and next time I’m making a quadruple batch. Thanks for the recipe, Kimberly!

*When I want a prepared curry powder, I reach for Penzey’s sweet curry powder. To me, it’s a perfect blend when not using individual spices.

Surf and Turf

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My surf and turf was inspired by a recipe in one of my latest cookbooks entitled Barbecue, by Stéphane Reynaud.. (Info in this post.)

It’s skewered beef and shrimp in a very interesting marinade. At least, it is very unique to me. The photo in his cookbook came out much better than what my skewers look like, but then, he probably had a food stylist! But it’s this photo that intrigued me about the recipe in the first place. In fact, it’s the first recipe I’m using from his book.

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I made three times as much marinade as his recipe called for, because I felt it was necessary. And I also had to make a substitution because I don’t know what “meat extract” is. His “note” claims that Bovril is a good meal extract. What? It sounds interesting, but I’ve never come across it before. So I used demi-glace.

So I’ll never really know what his actual kabobs tasted like, but I can assure you that these, using “my” recipe, came out fabulous. Read ahead and check out this marinade. It’s very interesting!

Surf and Turf

1 pound beef tenderloin or flank or skirt steak*
1 pound shrimp
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons ketchup, yep, that’s right**
1 teaspoon beef demi glace
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Coarsely ground pepper

Slice your beef of choice into approximately 1″ pieces only about 1/4″ thin. Then slice the shrimp in half lengthwise. Place both proteins in a medium bowl.
To make the marinade, combine the olive oil, ketchup, demi glace and garlic in a small blender.
surf5
Blend until fairly smooth, then pour over the meat and shrimp. It becomes very orange after blending.
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Toss together gently until evenly distributed, then cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
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The next day, make your skewers by alternating the slices of beef and chicken. Then let them come to room temperature or close to it.
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I love the fresh garlic in this marinade.

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Start your grill of choice. I’m using the electric one because the cooking time is so short. I cooked each kabob about 2 minutes on each of four “sides” at 400 degrees.
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Then I turned off the heat, put the cover on, and let them cook for another 2 minutes. They really smelled good while they were grilling!
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After a little rest, I served the surf and turf with some sautéed greens and steamed corn on the cob. Delicious.

surf1

* I used beef tenderloin because I had an odd-shaped end left over. But flank or skirt steak would both work well because there’s very little cooking involved. You want the meat to take as long (or as little) time to cook as the shrimp.

** Even though I’ve been making my own ketchup, I used commercial ketchup to more closely mimic the author’s recipe.

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verdict: I will definitely use ketchup in more marinades!!! You can’t really tell it’s ketchup, but it probably adds some salt and sugar, as well as tomatoey goodness to the sauce.