Ketchup is a controversial topic in my home. I’ve got family from Chicago who insist that ketchup on hot dogs is heresy, and different kids have taken different sides in the battle. I’m firmly in the pro-ketchup camp, and even I find it hard to get excited about something called the Tomato Ketchup Recipe Collection.
It might be a stretch to call this a cookbook; it’s more of a long-form advertisement: thirty-odd recipes spread out over twenty full-color pages, bookended by a light hagiography of the Heinz company. “It all began 120 years ago in one boy’s garden in Sharpsburg, PA.” You get the idea. This must have come to me by way of my grandmother, who probably got it through the mail in exchange for a stack of proofs-of-purchase. There’s no price, author credit, or ISBN number – just a “copyright 1988 H.J. Heinz Co.”.
Every recipe features a minimum of a quarter cup of HEINZ TOMATO KETCHUP or, occasionally, the defunct HEINZ KETCHUP ‘n ONIONS. Many of the recipes simply expand on the condiment concept: added to burgers or meatloaf, or as a component of a more complicated sauce or marinade like French dressing. There’s also a recurring theme of using ketchup as a substitute for tomato sauce, such as Spaghetti Sauce American Style or Chicken Mexicana. This is mildly disturbing but not crazy. Ketchup is mostly tomato sauce and sugar, and a lot of people like a sweet tomato sauce. It’s the texture that would bug me.
But there are a few recipes that go completely off the rails, pushing ketchup into places where it has no business. Spice cake. Cookies. And the oddly named Love Apple Pie which, depending on how you look at it, is either wildly un-American or the quintessential American dessert. At the very least it’s a waste of good apples.
If I had to distill Tomato Ketchup Recipe Collection into a single recipe it would be Tuna Creole. It straddles the line between ketchup-as-tomato-sauce recipes and unholy monstrosity, and also stands as a testament to the 1980s weeknight meal. I suppose someone must still be buying Tuna Helper, but the whole “Tuna with Sauce over Rice” thing isn’t the staple that it used to be.
But with a few adjustments this recipe is salvageable. It makes a tasty tomato sauce, but the sauce doesn’t pair well with tuna. Tuna and tomato sauce can pair well together, but ketchup’s just got too much sugar to make this one work. Ditch the tuna and find another protein.
I’ve also made a few adjustments to the sauce to add some depth and texture. I’ve pureed the vegetables to offset the smoothness of the ketchup, which lends a texture more like a conventional tomato sauce. I’ve also amped up the spice and seasonings to push the ketchup further into the background. The end result still isn’t anything I’d call creole, but it pairs well with a grilled chicken breast and rice.
Improbably, the Tomato Ketchup Recipe Collection is available for purchase at Amazon (at least as of this writing). You can purchase a copy via my Amazon Affiliate link here: https://amzn.to/39Rdp90
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- dash salt
- 1 anaheim or pasilla pepper
- 1/4 sweet onion
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp hot pepper sauce (Crystal or Tabasco work well)
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water or white wine
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup tomato ketchup (I used Heinz, but you do you)
- 1 can tuna, drained (or pick 6-8 oz of another protein)
- hot long grain rice
- Add pepper and sweet onion to a food processor. Puree in pulses to form a coarse mixture.
- Heat butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle a little bit of salt on top. Cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms have sweat off some liquid and the mushrooms just start to brown. Add the onion/pepper puree until onions are translucent and mixture is warm and fragrant. Add the garlic and cumin and stir a few times, then reduce the heat to medium
- Stir in flour, hot pepper sauce, vinegar and freshly ground pepper and continue stirring until well incorporated to form a thin roux. Add water or white wine and stir until well-mixed, then add ketchup and heat - stirring continually - until mixture thickens and starts to set.
- For the "traditional" version, mix sauce with drained tuna and serve over rice. As a less awful alternative, use the sauce to top grilled chicken or mild whitefish filet (such as tilapia or cod) and serve with buttered rice and a green vegetable.