Taming the Sea Monster!

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I recently visited some friends at their cottage and much to my delight, they served octopus! I love octopus and will order it at restaurants but had never prepared it at home. Conquering all those legs, the head, the beak! Beak? This was all new to me but my hostess made it seem effortless and the result? Delicious!

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Octopus – deliciously conquered! Suction cups and all and one tentacle at a time! Here’s the crash course.

  1. Deep Freeze – This may be the one time that frozen is better than fresh. The process of freezing and thawing actually tenderizes the flesh. So don’t be afraid to buy frozen!
  2. Myths for a Mythical Creature – The Italians will braise the whole octopus with a cork into the braising liquid. Some suggest dropping a clean penny into the pot…not sure who came up with that but pennies are going out of circulation so hang on to one.
  3. Charrrr – A good char on a hot grill or under a broiler will turn all those suction cups into crispy bits while keeping the flesh tender
  4. Flavor the Braise – This sea creature will be bathing in braising liquid for 60-90 minutes so here’s your chance to give it a spa-like treatment. Infuse the braising liquid with some great aromatics!

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Charred Octopus with Tomato Braised Beans

Octopus

  • 3-4 lbs octopus
  • 1 lemon, cut into 1 inch rings
  • 3 whole sprigs of thyme, tied
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 1 head of garlic cut on the equator
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes or 1 Thai red chili
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 wine cork, optional
  • 1 clean penny, option

Braised Beans

  • 5-6 plum tomatoes, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb Navy beans or another bean of choice, soaked overnight
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 120 g dry cured chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 Tbsp Harissa paste
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • bay leaf

Octopus: In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil on high and sear all the aromatics except for the bay leaves and the pepper flakes. Make sure that the lemon gets some brown on them. Add 2 L of water and bring to a boil. Add the pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt, cork and penny.

Drop in the octopus and let it simmer gently for 60-90 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and allow the octopus to come to room temperature. Remove the head, the beak and cut the legs into individual pieces. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid

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Roasted Tomatoes: In the meantime, toss the tomatoes with oil and salt. Place skin side down on a foil lined tray and roast at 400°F for 25 minutes until slightly blistered but still plump. Set aside.

Beans: In a dutch oven over medium high heat, heat 1 Tbsp oil and add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook until transluscent. Add the Harissa, tomato paste, roasted tomatoes, paprika, thyme, bay leaf and sugar and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the beans, and enough reserved cooking liquid from above just to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook stirring every 20 minutes until beans are tender, about 60-90 minutes. You may have to add a bit more reserved liquid if the mixture gets dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the beans are soft and about 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, fire use your broiler or grill.

Rub the octopus and the chorizo with oil and a pinch of salt. Place in a single layer on a foil lined tray and broil for 3-4 minutes a side or until nicely charred. Alternatively, grill until charred.

Spoon a portion of beans into a wide bowl, top with octopus legs and some chorizo. Give everything a drizzle of olive oil and serve with lemon wedges and some charred sourdough.

Serves 4

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