Sunday, December 26, 2010


I've realized that some of the dishes and ingredients we prepare on a daily basis aren't that common to the average home chef or beginning culinary student. One of the simplest yet most intimidating ingredients to prepare is the octopus. Simply put, the octopus is either cooked really quick or really slow. I recently prepared a marinated octopus salad with kalamata olives and lemon that made me realize how foreign this could be to a first timer without basic cooking knowledge. It's an ingredient that is not that expensive if found in the right setting such as your local Chinese market or frozen gourmet market section. I like to remove the heads from the tentacles and cut away the black beak. I think that no matter what stage the octopus is in age, it's best to braise. A braise by definition is " a combination of cooking methods using both dry and moist heat; typically the food is seared in hot fat until golden brown and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid resulting in a particular flavor over an extended period of time and temperature". By braising the octopus it breaks down the muscle tissue and allows the texture to become quite tender. My salad started with onions, garlic, and tomatoes being sauteed in extra virgin olive oil. I then added the octopus and lightly cooked it until the color had become a vibrant pinkish color. I seasoned the broth with capers, tomatoes juice, vegetable stock, lemon zest, fresh herbs, and kalamata olives. After 90 minutes of lightly simmering, the octopus became very tender. From this point on it can be chilled and served in a salad with greens, skewered as a lollipop, or grilled as an antipasti. It's one of those ingredients that most people will consider a wow factor because it's not a common item seen on most menus. I would suggest that everyone try cooking this or taking on the challenge of learning the technique of properly braising. A braise can be a great technique to use when cooking cheap cuts of beef, poultry, or game meats.

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