This pasta dish hails from Chef Michael White's restaurant Marea. Sam and I were eager to recreate at home. In general I'm very pro-cephalopod. They're becoming easier and easier to find, and are inexpensive. I think the tentacles keep people away, which I'm fine with since it keeps the price low. We'll be in trouble if people figure out they're cheap, easy to cook and delicious. Maybe I shouldn't be writing this....
General octopus notes, buying guide, and other rambling sentences:
- Buying guide:
- Babies are generally sold pre-cleaned which is nice for this ambitious recipe. You also don't have to poach/peel unlike the grown up octopuses. I still feel around for beaks since its no bueno to chomp into one.
- There aren't any domestic octopi, so this is unfortunately a protein you can't purchase at the green market/ farmers market. Luckily the folks at Fairway, and Whole Foods often have baby or full grown octopuses. If you hate these establishments, and you want to purchase everything from a local day boat situation, a lot of octopus recipes can be adapted. Look to another cephalopod, the squid! Click here for squid cleaning info.
- Try to have 1/2 # of octopuses per person.
- Ask the fish monger if they've been cleaned, also SMELL them before you buy. Like most seafood, the nose knows, and trust it. If it doesn't smell like clean ocean, don't purchase it. Bad octopus is SO BAD.
- You can buy pre-poached octopus at almost every Japanese grocery store. Dope in okonomiyaki or tako yaki.
- Cooking notes:
- Keep in mind a lot of these apply to the big fellers, babies are easier and don't require the double cook method.
- The pre-poached tentacles can then be sautéed, served cold in a salad, grilled or seared.
- General rule of thumb for cooking is first poach gently for about an hour or until tender. Treat it like a potato, pierce with a pairing knife until theres little resistance. Keep the flame under control too. This shouldn't be at a boil.
- Once your guy or guys has been poached, you then remove the skin.
- Most octopus/ cephalopods need to be cooked hot and fast (think fried calamari) or braised like this recipe here today.
- Further Notes:
- Every pro-octopus culture has their own weird take on how to get octopus tender. I find a lot of them to be pretty hilarious. Again as long as you poach it correctly, you're going to be golden. Don't boil him to death, gentle poach. Some folks claim its ESSENTIAL to cook octopus in copper pots, offering no scientific backing. Others say you have to smash the octopus with rocks. My favorite is the superstition that asks the cook to place two wine corks in the poaching pot.
- A lot of this information has to deal with the big guys, which will come soon. We'll do a full photo lesson on cooking the big guys.
- Octopi are low in fat, high in iron/ selenium and vitamin b-12.
The recipe! Adapted from Star Chefs.
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 rib of celery , minced
- 1 large carrot, minced
- 1 bouquet garni (bundle thyme, parsley stems and bay leaf, tie with twine)
- 1 cup of good red wine
- freshly cracked pepper
- smoked maldon salt
- pinch of red pepper flake
- 1 1/2 pounds of cleaned, de-beaked, rinsed baby octopuses
- 1- 26 oz. can of crushed tomatoes ( I like organic muir glen personally )
- 1/2 pound of bone marrow
- 1 pound of good dry fusilli
- minced chives (garnish)
- minced parsley (garnish)
- In a large dutch oven ( 8 quarts and up) heat up some olive oil. Sauté the mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) with the bouquet garni until soft, about 3-4 minutes, don't let it brown. Add your babies, and sauté for another 3-4 until they release a little liquid.
- Add the wine and cook the alcohol off for 4-5 minutes. Don't let it boil like crazy.
- Add tomatos, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Braise over low heat for 1 hour. Meanwhile switch gears to the bone marrow.
- Place the bones in warm water. This will make punching the marrow out of the bones easier. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Using the end of a wooden spoon, stab the marrow out of those bones.
- Get your pasta water going. Salt it up.
- Chop your garnish.
- Heat up another sauté pan, and sear the marrow. Don't let it melt all the way, we want to liquify some of it, but you don't want to melt it like butter.
- When you're close on your braise, drop your pasta.
- Remove the bouquet garni. Mix in the marrow chunks.
- Pull a cup of pasta water, drain your pasta, and mix it into the sauce. Mix in pasta water as needed if its dry. Add in rendered/melted bone marrow. This will all emulsify with the starchy water.
- Plate it up, dust with chives and parsley, make sure everyone gets some of those little baby octopi!