Seafood cocktails like this one, served at a stand in the market, are typical of Veracruz.
- 2 small octopuses (about 8 oz. each), cleaned
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb. medium shrimp
- 3⁄4 cup ketchup
- 1⁄4 cup Mexican hot sauce, preferably Valentina or Tamazula
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 ripe avocado
Put octopus, bay leaves, one-third of the onions, and 6 cups cold water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until octopus is tender when pierced with a skewer, about 1 hour. Use a slotted spoon to transfer octopus to a bowl and reserve cooking broth. Hold octopus under cold running water and rub off skin and little "suction cups." Cut into 1⁄2" pieces.
Increase heat to high and bring cooking broth to a boil. Add shrimp, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, set lid askew, and pour broth into a medium bowl. Cover pot again and set aside to let shrimp "steam" for 5 minutes, then fill pot with cold water to stop the cooking. When shrimp are cool, drain, then peel, discarding shells and tails.
Combine ketchup and hot sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Combine shrimp, octopus, cilantro, lime juice, the remaining onions, and three-fourths of the ketchup mixture in a large bowl. Add 1 1⁄2 cups of the reserved cooking broth. Mix well. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, pit, peel, and slice the avocado. Spoon cocktail into small bowls and top each with avocado slices and a spoonful of remaining ketchup mixture. Serve with saltine crackers on the side, if you like.