One of the many cooking related presents I received for Christmas, was a beautiful Ferrari-red Le Creuset pot – something I had coveted for a long time, but never got round to getting for myself. It was gorgeous, and I wanted to use it straight away, but there’s something about the two words, “Summer” and “Braising”, that just don’t seem to gel together. It’s as if Yogi Bear held up the pot against the searing heat of Summer and scratching his head, said, “Hmm.. something wrong here!”
Lucky for me, no one ever listens to Yogi, not even Boo Boo. The original idea for a simple Saturday meal was to braise some octopus, then maybe grill it on the BBQ or have it cold (between two buns? Or does that sound too salacious? And what of the chorizo?). The addition of chorizo stems from my love of said sausage and my willingness to add it to almost anything possible. That, and possibly subconscious messages yelling at me from when I saw it mentioned on Spitoon, which caused me to pick up some chorizo when I was shopping for ingredients.
The best ways to cook octopus are, either really fast over high heat so that the meat doesn’t have time to toughen, or slowly over low heat, which breaks down and tenderises the octopus. Just as a matter of personal preference, I favour the second method. Nothing like little baby octopi paddling around in a rich tomatoey sauce.
This recipe is an adaptation of one that features in From the Boathouse, a collection of recipes from The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, when Yvan Meunier was head chef. The sprinkling of gremolata (they use “dried gremolata” in the book) is a great idea because the combination of herbs and zesty lemon really enlivens and puts more of a Summer stamp on the dish.
Braised Baby Octopus with Chorizo and Gremolata:
1 kg baby octopus, cleaned
100ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 spanish onion or 4-5 eschallots (aka shallot or french shallot), diced
generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 small chorizo, thickly sliced
1 tin tomatoes (440g)
slurp of Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
zest of 2 lemons, chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
For the gremolata, combine the chopped parsley, zests and garlic.
Heat the olive oil in your brand spanking new Le Creuset pot. Lightly fry the garlic, onion and chilli to soften. Add the octopus, tomato, chorizo and vinegar. At this stage, it will look like it might be too dry to be a stew, but as the octopus cooks, it will release some more liquid. Bring to boil then turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 30-40 minutes until the octopus is tender. Adjust the seasoning.
The octopus can now be served straight away, piping hot, or at room temperature, or even cold, with a glass of beer. Today we had it warm, with some steamed potatoes, scattered black olives, and topped with a dollop of aioli and the gremolata.
For more ideas to stew over, check out this new event being hosted over at Spitoon.