Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hallie's Coctel de Mariscos: A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night

Years ago, when we were at Disneyland in Los Angeles and desperate for real food, we went to a wonderful Mexican restaurant less than a mile away that my sister Amy, always a food maven, tipped us off about. The parking lot was packed and music playing. You ordered at a window and sat at long picnic tables.

I can't remember what we ate, but what I do remember is the "coctel de mariscos" (seafood cocktail) that other smarter and mostly Spanish speakers had ordered. It came in what looked like a ice cream glass and it was filled with shrimp and tomatoes and avocado and it looked spectacular.

Ever since I've been trying to approximate what I imagine it must have tasted like. My concoction is a cross between a spicy gazpacho and shrimp cocktail, and it's a perfect cold main dish for hot summer nights.

Hallie's Seafood Cocktail (the version I made last night for dinner is in the photo)

Ingredients to serve 4:
Seafood! About 1 1/2 pounds of it. Always some shrimp, and then whatever else you've got (squid, large scallops, white fish (cod, tilapia, whatever)...)
Miscellaneous aromatics for the water that you poach the seafood in (fresh herbs like parsley, celery tops, a piece of onion, a slice of lemon or lime, scallions, peppercorns, salt)
Tomato (or V8) juice (about 2 cups)
Hot sauce (or a finely chopped jalapeno) to taste
1 chopped up sweet green pepper
1 chopped up ripe avocado
1/2 of a sweet onion, chopped
A good handful of chopped cilantro
A pound of chopped fresh tomatoes
Juice of 2 limes (at least)
Salt and pepper to taste
(Optional: white vinegar to taste)

1. Cook the seafood
Boil about 4" of water in a saucepan with the aromatics for about 5 minutes.
Throw in the raw seafood, cut into chunks, and cook until just done, probably about 4-5 minutes.
Drain and separate out the aromatics (and discard).
Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over the drained seafood and and let it cool.

2. Put the green pepper, avocado, onion, cilantro, and tomatoes in a nonreactive serving bowl. Add the seafood. Add the tomato juice and hot sauce (or jalapeno) to taste and salt and pepper. Mix. Taste. Season. (If it's not sharp and piquante enough for you add more hot sauce and some white vinegar.)

3. Chill and serve.

NOTE: If you're going to be awhile before serving, then don't add the chopped up avocados until just before you're ready to serve.

If anyone out there has had an authentic coctel de mariscos, let me know how far off this gringa has wandered.


  1. Looks great! I'll have to try it sometime.

    I've had the same issue with bread pudding -- I don't suppose you have a recipe for that? I've been trying to approximate it since I had it back in 1993 (my taste buds have long memories!)

  2. I had the most incredible bread pudding with blueberries at Santiago's Bodega in Key West. No recipe though, sorry Jeff!

    Hallie we'll be right over....

  3. Bread pudding... you go to New Orleans and EVERY RESTAURANT just about has a spectacular version. And everywhere else in the world (except apparently Key West) it's just blah. Until I went to New Orleans I didn't think I even liked it. I wonder if it's something in the water below a certain latitude?

  4. Hallie, this is a very good version of a basic coctel de mariscos. There are often variations, but you've got all the basics here. One thing is that the peppers are less likely to be jalapeƱos than one of the hundreds of other peppers Mexican cooks use--most often, a mix. JalapeƱos were once the only pepper available in the States but no longer.

    Jeffrey, Jack Stack, one of KC's great barbecue restaurants, has fabulous bread pudding. We actually have several restaurants with good bread pudding, though I must agree with Hallie--when I go elsewhere and order bread pudding, it's blah. I do have a great bread pudding recipe I make with Bailey's. Batter than any I've had in any restaurant. Unfortunately, it's only in handwritten hard-copy and I'm off my feet with this knee right now, but when I can get around, I'll find it and post it.

  5. Hallie, sounds delish. I will have to make it sometime when we have company, as dear hubby will not eat avocado, green peppers, jalapenos, or cilantro...

    I love ceviche, the raw version, where the seafood is cooked by marinating in lime juice. (I'll bet Linda has a good recipe...)

    And Linda, so sorry about the knee! Thinking of you!

  6. Hallie, that is gorgeous! I must have some! Going to the kitchen now to see if there is a recipe for it in Linda's cookbook, too. I have to have it and will try all versions I find!

    My mother used to make a delicious pineapple bread pudding. When I try to make it, it just curdles!

  7. Reine, standing by for bread pudding recipe! (feel better...)

    We had a lovely warm salad last night: grilled zuccchini, tossed with little sauteed red tomatoes, garlic, mint, and basil and olive oil. Hmm. I could have put mozzarella...

  8. Hah! Auntie-Mom just messaged me. She said I'm curdling the bread pudding by not dripping the pineapple juice slowly into the milk while stirring, before adding the other ingredients. Auntie-Mom knows all-- and gets around, I'll tell ya.

  9. Linda, Bailey's bread pudding sounds fabulous!

  10. Linda, we're going to hold you to posting that bread pudding recipe... Thanks for the vote of confidence for the coctel de mariscos.

  11. Looks delish. An avocado would not be a bad addition. I love Mexican!

  12. I vote for a Jungle Red barbecue. In my mind...Glad your knee is better, Linda. Knees are painful.

  13. Linda, I'll wait patiently for the bread pudding recipe--feel better soon. My mother made a great bread pudding but the recipe was in her head and now that she has Alzheimer's it's gone.

  14. Hallie:

    That dish sounds yummy but I think I would prefer to have someone else make it for me. It sounds like a lot of work - I'll bet the reward is in the eating, though!


    VERY happy to see you here and to know that you are giving your knee a rest. Heal well and quickly!

    I am interested in that bread pudding recipe. To my knowledge, I've eaten it only once or twice. I had it at a family restaurant that is known for its desserts. I did enjoy it very much. My mother used to rave about a bread pudding that she ate as a child at Girl Scut camp! She could never duplicate the recipe and stopped trying. She was quite underweight as a kid, went to camp on "camperships", and the cook at GS camp was supposed to try to fatten her up,which was not an easy task with girl scouts running around and engaging in sports activities all day long. (They apparently believed that her parents couldn't afford to feed her well.) She did not gain weight but she DID develop a love of bread pudding!

    I just returned from my first Memorial Day weekend barbecue in many years, feeling very full. Then I read today's I want to eat again!! I'll try to be good, and stick wth fruit salad!

  15. Ah bread pudding. Kept us from craving swankier pudding in England during the war. The Aunties made excellent bread puddings. We kids loved their " stodge pud" as we called it. Granfathers would urge us to eat up , it will put hairs on your chests they promised. Grandmothers would promise more delicately that it would warm our tums....It got us through the war.