Often when I’m working with a client I’m inspired by a task, formula, recipe, methodology, process, or ingredient. While helping my clients, Steven Nicks and Fred Latasa, get their first restaurant, Strangers & Saints, off the ground last summer, I was inspired by many things. Their Curried Octopus, however, was so delicious it led me to write about it for the Chicago Tribune’s Food & Dining section.
As a result of my curiosity and menu research, it turns out that octopus is showing up on menus and inspiration/trend reports all over the US. The International Chefs Congress in September of 2016 named it in their top-ten of menu item trends. And, a slew of restaurants from coast to coast are featuring octopus on their menus. Here are a few examples just from Chicago: The Purple Pig; Quartino; Fish Bar; Ruxbin.
I love and welcome the diversity of my work. It keeps me on top of the game and more valuable to my customers.
1, 4-pound, whole octopus, thawed (or 5, ½ – 1 pound octopus – octopus shrink tremendously when cooked)
1 ½ cups white wine
3 cups water
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
3 corks (optional)
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons Ras el Hanout (or substitute your favorite curry powder)
2 Tablespoons turmeric
3 Tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (or less to reduce the spiciness of the dish)
½ cup sugar
½ cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon Ras el Hanout (or substitute your favorite curry powder)
2 cups orange juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2, 14.5 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained, rinsed
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Bring octopus, wine, water, onion, fennel, carrots, garlic, salt, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds and cork (optional) to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Cover, transfer to oven and cook, covered, until octopus is fork tender at its thickest part, 90 minutes – 2 hours (check tenderness after 90 minutes).
Drain octopus from cooking liquid and remove tentacles from head. Discard head. Transfer tentacles to a re-sealable plastic bag. Strain cooking liquid, reserving ½ cup (remaining cooking liquid can be frozen for several months and used in recipes calling for fish stock).
Make the marinade by whisking together the olive oil, Ras el Hanout, turmeric, red pepper flakes, sugar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Pour marinade over octopus, seal bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Make the chickpea mash by heating olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in Ras el Hanout and cook for several seconds until very fragrant. Add reserved cooking liquid, orange juice, salt, pepper, chickpeas and cilantro. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling, and chickpeas begin to fall apart and all the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Lower heat to a simmer and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, Heat broiler to low, set rack four to six inches from heating element. Broil octopus on a sheet pan until deep dark brown, crisp, and heated through, about 4 minutes per side.
Place chickpea mash in the center of a warm serving dish, top with broiled octopus and garnish with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. Serve at once.