March 31, 2010

Octopus alla Calamari Fritti

My family loves farmers' markets. We usually go to a couple of the markets nearby and on Fridays, our city has one. So once schoolwork is done, we would walk on over, armed with our little pushcart, to check out the new things they offer and buy our usual: three dozen eggs, bunches of broccoli, tangerines, hydroponic bok choy and John Dory from the fish vendor.

So while I was chatting with the fish vendor, my 10-year old son exclaimed "Wow! Look Mom, they have octopus!" My son is quite an adventurous eater, so he begged me to buy it along with our usual fish. I didn't think it through at the time since I was in a bit of a rush trying to buy what we need and I've noticed most vendors were packing up to close. So walking back home, I asked my son (who by the way, has never tasted octopus before) what he planned on his special buy. He replied: Oh, you can just cook it like squid, it will be great!

Say what? So come time to prepare dinner, here I am staring at this thing with no idea what to do and how to do it. Where do I start? My son passed by "Aren't you gonna take a picture, Mom?" Oh my, that made me laugh. (I suppose my kids are used to seeing me clicking away at food.) So I did and off to the computer I went for ideas. Kath, a fellow blogger was on Twitter at the time and she suggested takoyaki. She made it sound so good but I didn't have dashi or katsuobushi at hand.

But there is still a matter of preparing the octopus. More google searching ended up with this very good article from The Splendid Table titled "Octopus Demystified" by Mark Bittman:

Almost every octopus dish begins with simmering, and it is not unlike cooking a tough piece of meat: You put the octopus in water to cover and cook it until it is tender. This usually takes about an hour, but may be considerably less for smaller specimens and sometimes twice as long for larger, tougher ones. Judging tenderness is easy: When the thickest part of the octopus (the "skirt," where the head meets the legs) yields to the sharp point of a small knife with little resistance, it is done.
So I followed Mr. Bittman's directions. By this time, it was already late for the octopus to make it to the dinner table. My son was disappointed but told him I will be cooking it for lunch the next day.

Saturday is another farmers' market day for us. After the market, we ended up stopping by a bahn mi cafe for lunch because we got distracted by the many yard sales we were passing by on our way home. My son and I have completely forgotten about his octopus chilling in the fridge. Ooops!

Sunday came, the family's lazy day so no one wanted to go anywhere. I still don't have any dashi. My husband had started simmering marinara sauce to have for dinner so I followed suit, changed gears and decided to just quickly fry these suckers for an antipasti. Off they go, tossed into a bowl with some Wondra seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika and quickly fried in a little olive oil.

Having just finished photographing some cookies, I must have still been on my challenge mode because this is how the dish turned out:

My son loved it! The octopus was tender, even better than squid, he thought. Now he expects to have octopus (or is it octopi) all the time. So now I need your help. Do you have any recipes you can share with me? I have a feeling octopus will be part of our family meals from now on. And can I just say, I'm such a sucker for my kids! :)

I have another entry for Tracey Tangled Noodle and Jennifer's Savor the Thyme for their Eating Your Words 2010 Challenge.


A cupcake or two said...

How cool that you used the dreaded octopus for the challenge. You are too funny

Tangled Noodle said...

This is one word I would love to eat! I bet your son will continue to be a source of cooking inspiration for you - and maybe become a food blogger himself. 8-)

Thank you so much for this playful new entry for Eating Your Words! And by the way, I love the photo of the raw whole octopus - it looks like an alien autopsy! 8-D

The Food Librarian said...

I love it!!! Suckers!!! That is the best. You are a great mom and what a great eater you have! I love octopus. Since I was little, I love the rubbery texture and when the suction cup sticks to your lip! ;) - mary

Phyllis said...

Awesome and so witty! And I thought I was crazy bringing a smelly durian home (lol). I've never cooked with octopus before but I heard it's difficult to get it tender so bravo! Good luck in the challenge (if you win, you can make takoyaki with the aebleskiver pan) :)

Anonymous said...

I love it! Popcorn octopus for the win :) So creative & I love the witty "sucker" picture! Now I gotta get my hands on an octopus...

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

Talk about adventurous eater your son really is! I like calamari, but i don't think i could have picked up that octupus and brought it home :). Mark Bittman seems to know everything...and your dish looks great!

Nachiketa said...

WOW!!! What lovely use of the Octopus...

nice to see a kid enthusiastic about new sorts of food... else all i hear is mom's worry that their kids don't eat enough or well...

Very creative entry for "Eating your Words Challenge'
The Variable - Nachiketa
Crazy Over Desserts - The Variable, Nachiketa

Anonymous said...

Hi I found your blog thru the Tanglednoodle and I enjoyed your post on octopus. Here is a recipe from Greece that I have had and it is delicious. I think your son will like it...

1 whole raw octopus- medium sized
5 Cloves Garlic (Finely chopped)
4 Whole Lemons (Squeezed)
1 Whole Octopus
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1-2 Pinch Pepper (To taste)
2-3 Pinch Salt (To taste)
1 Cup red wine Vinegar

Beat the octopus with a meat hammer or against the concrete (as they do in Greece) to soften it up.
This may take 15 minutes or more.
Cut and clean the octopus into pieces about twice the size of a serving because the meat will shrink when cooked.
Combine the vinegar, a 1/4 cup of olive oil, the garlic, some oregano, salt and pepper.
Place marinade in large ziploc bag and add octopus.
Marinate overnight for best results but 3 hrs in the fridge will do.
To cook, warm the BBQ to low-medium heat and lay the meat on the grill.
Baste with a mixture of the remaining olive oil, the juice from the lemons, and the oregano, being careful not to cause a flame to erupt in the BBQ.
When the octopus is done (about 15 minutes), plate, and pour the remaining marinade over the removed octopus and serve

Eric - Myhungrytum


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