Octopus, See!?

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We have cooked this impressive cephalapod, this leviathan, this eight-legged chicken of the sea several times before. We have boiled it forever to tenderize the darned thing. And we have liked it quite a bit. What’s not to like about some meaty protein drizzled with olive oil, smoked paprika, and sea salt? But I knew there were more options out there in the vast and deep Mediterranean of the internet. New ways of making the most of this creature that makes its living feasting on shrimp, lobster, oysters, and all the other shellfish that I love. The octopus eats thus freely. I pay thus dearly. But octopi are cheap. Some 5 bucks a pound at my farmer’s market (I know, I’m overpaying). But that’s nothing for a creature that’s as delish as shellfish, but without the shell.

So I searched the net, cast a wide one, until I found several recipes that encouraged a gentle braise. No water added. What a liberation! The darned thing is 90 percent water anyway, so we diverged: we had a 2 pound octopus. It was like an extra from the Matrix, all tentacles, suction cups, ready to work for less than scale. We put it in a pot over medium heat and it released a briny, self braising liquid that rose a good halfway up the, ahem, sucker. I added a bayleaf. A bit of lemon zest. Some garlic. A good several dashes of pimenton de la vera. A pinch and then some of salt. And I let it go, let it braise itself for over 90 minutes. Until it was tenderish. And then I cooled it. Put it in a bowl and let it sit overnight. And then I removed it from its gelatinous marinade and sliced it thin and served it to the fam.

“It tastes like the ocean,” said Violet.

“It tastes like beef,” said Desomond.

“Save me some,” said I.

—Hugh

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