Growing up I had a love hate relationship with octopus. As a kid I fancied myself an adventurous eater, I thought ordering octopus was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately my initial experiences with octopus did not turn out so well... it would be either too tough, or too mushy. Then I tasted a perfectly cooked piece of octopus and I needed to perfect this ingredient, soft, moist, crunchy. The key is to prepare the octopus in a flavorful broth, cooking it low and slow allows the flavor to infuse into the meat. Then you must sear the octopus in a bit of oil, butter and herbs, developing a delicious and aromatic crust. This recipe includes the rich preparation of octopus juxtaposed with crunchy jicama, spicy arugula and a velvety puree of well seasoned roasted vegetables and Marcona almonds.
I hope you truly enjoy this recipe. I encourage you to try it, it will be well worth it. And as always, have fun when you are cooking and make the recipe yours. Follow your senses, follow your nose and tongue... it is far better than any recipe you will ever read.
Octopus - 2 each cleaned
Tomato - 1 each cut in half
Lemon - 1 each cut in half
Onion - 1 each sliced
Thyme - 3 sprigs
Bay Leaf - 1 each
Star Anise - 1 each
Juniper Berries - 2 each
White Wine - 3 cups
Seafood Stock - 3 cups
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/4 cup (to crisp after braise)
Butter - 1 tbsp
Rosemary and Thyme - 1 sprig each
Roasted Red Pepper - 3 whole peppers with seeds and skin removed
English Cucumber - 1/2 peeled
Tomato - 1/2 cup diced
Marcona Almonds - 1/4 cup soaked
Shallot - 1/2 sliced
Smoked Paprika - 2 tsp
Olive Oil - about 1/3 cup
Sherry Vinegar - 2 tbsp (to taste)
Lemon - 1 squeeze (to taste)
Honey - to taste (about 1 tbsp)
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Arugula, Jicama and Cucumber Garnish
Jicama - 1 cup small dice
Cucumber - 1 cup small dice
Arugula - 1 handful
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Shallot - 1 tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1/2 juiced
Octopus - In a medium sized stock pot sweat the tomato, onion and lemon. When the vegetables become aromatic add the herbs, spices and both tomato and white wine. Bring to a boil, turn down and add the octopus. Cover and place in the oven at 350 for 90 min. or until the octopus becomes very tender. Remove from the pot and let cool.
To crisp, heat a pan over medium high heat and add olive oil, place seasoned octopus in the pan and cook for about 90 seconds on each side, or until it is golden and crispy. After the first side is cooked add some thyme to the pan for additional aroma.
Romesco Sauce - roast the red pepper over an open flame, place in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap to let them steam. When they are cooled off a bit, peel the pepper and separate from the seeds. Do not wash them! That will get rid of all of the flavor. In a blender put the pepper, cucumber, shallot, almonds and a bit of vinegar. Blend on high. When smooth begin to drizzle the olive oil in. If it is too thick add a bit of water. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and sherry vinegar. Pass through a chinois (sieve) and then fold in the chopped herbs.
Garnish - dice the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and toss in shallot, olive oil and lemon juice.
To Plate - Place the garnish of jicama and cucumber on the bottom of the plate. Randomly place the octopus tentacles around the plate. Pour the Romesco Sauce around the octopus and serve.