Octopus – A Right of Passage

Fear Eats the Soul, is the title of a Fassbinder film that tells a story of a life half lived. The cooking of octopus has that kind of spell over me; fear of the unknown, a cooking life half lived.

You see I’ve never quite grasped the concept of preparation. Asking various chefs and home cooks, no one has given me a definitive answer. Cook it for hours, some say, other swear by cooking it with a wine cork, but most often the informal survey suggests beating the hell out of it to tenderize. Whatever answer, it has always filled me with intrepedation. But really, I’ve cooked pig’s ears, tripe and even procured and cooked up a calf’s foot, right? Right.
So staring at the ice filled bins at Satellite Fish in Sidney the other day, I looked fear right in the eyes and laughed.
Octopus is a bycatch for the majority of fisherman and is hard to come by fresh for the average consumer. That and the fact that chefs with their coveted sources quickly snap up any supply of the cephalopod before anyone else. I wonder where they were this day? Maybe at the Chef’s Congress bonding over foie gras and beer? Hmmm…..
I purchased a nice long leg (arm) – perfect for a beginner – and set all those years of conflicting reports on methodology to rest.
I gave the arm (leg) a good rinse and marveled at its firm cool flesh and curious suction thingies.
Now to braise. Reading that octopus contains a lot of water, I didn’t immerse it but only lined the bottom of a deep pot with liquid to get it started, and threw in some garlic and oregano.
Over medium high, with the lid on, sure enough the leg started to exude water – wow! – enough to braise. I let it go for an hour. I pierced it several times to check for tenderness.
When I felt it was tender enough, I took it off the heat and let it sit until cool enough to handle.
I sliced it and tossed the slices in a mixture of fresh red hot chilie, chopped lemon peel, garlic and fruity olive oil. Pan seared, they were beautifully tender, not falling apart, but still maintaining a fleshy slightly springy texture.
I can’t believe how ridiculously easy that was. I patched up a piece of my soul today.

One Response to “Octopus – A Right of Passage”

  1. Matt R. says:

    Kim at Satellite delivers us the best fresh local fish money can buy – rock fish, snapper, ling cod, sole. I’m glad to hear you shop there, they are good people.

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