A photo in the cookbook Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, from IHCC’s monthly featured chef Tessa Kiros, of octopus left hanging out on washing line in the sun to dry in Greece caught my attention. It heightened my interest and desire in traveling to Greece and having fresh seafood for lunch by the beach.
The next best thing for now, to satisfy my stomach and curiosity, would be to make an octopus dish from the book. Perhaps, a cooking experimentation, if you will, since I’ve never worked with octopus before. The fun started when you tried finding octopus to buy when you don’t live near the sea. I ended up getting a small frozen whole octopus.
Learning the anatomy of octopus is another lesson in itself. “Cut the head off the octopus just below the eyes. Remove the beak by pushing it out through the center of the tentacles. Cut the eyes from the head by slicing off a small round. Remove the intestines by pushing them out of the head.” Seriously? I read the instruction a few times and did not quite get it. I’ve butchered whole chicken and fish, but that’s the extent of my butchering skill. Lucky me, I found out after the package of octopus was defrosted that all these awesome steps were done for me. All I had to do was to rinse and to cut up the octopus into chunks.
I substituted pearl onions for small white boiling onions because that’s what I could find in the local markets. I followed the recipe closely. After simmering for over an hour, the sauce turned out more like a thick tomato sauce than a light red wine sauce, as shown in the book. Nonetheless, the sauce was richly flavored. The octopus and pearl onions tasted fine, but not perfect. The octopus was a bit chewy. The original 1-inch pieces of octopus shrunk and looked somewhat lost in the sea of red sauce. It’s probably the results of my own doing for not following through with the last procedure: adding water, if necessary, and not giving the octopus the 30-minute cooling time in the hot stew before serving.
I haven’t tasted an octopus stifado before. Just don’t know what to expect! Has anyone tried making this dish? I’d love to hear about your experience if you have.
This won’t be my last run with octopus. If and when I can get my hands on some fresh whole octopus, there is another octopus recipe in Kiros’ book I’d like to make: grilled octopus with oregano. The octopus is quickly grilled and lightly dressed with oil and vinegar. I thought of grilling the octopus, but even the small piece I brought home was far too big to fit on the stovetop grill. Sadly, the outdoor grill was inaccessible, under several inches of snow.
I may even go as far as dissecting the whole octopus next time around. That would have to wait until the summer when you can hang the octopus on the washing line in the sun to dry.