Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pan-Seared Octopus with Bean Salad

We were just away for the weekend and I spent today decompressing. It was the perfect day to try a new ingredient.

Enter: octopus.

This year we went to Nashville for New Years Eve and while we were there we made sure to visit City House in hopes of trying their crispy octopus. We had no luck getting the octopus (but lots of luck getting delicious appetizers) so I have been looking for something similar to try at home.

I had one of those cylindrical frozen, pre-cleaned packs of octopus tentacles in the freezer and I've been waiting for a chance to use it and decided today was the day. I thawed it to commit myself and went on the hunt for a recipe.

I found this recipe on SBS Food. It looked promising, so I made a few changes and got to work.

The octopus is braised first, then seared and served atop a lovely white bean salad. The suggested braising time is 45 minutes but cooked it for twice as long before reaching a tenderness I could work with, so leave yourself some time.

Seared on the bean salad.
Because the braise took so long for me I'd be interested to try this again either with fresh octopus to see if it takes less time or in a slow cooker to get things very tender and maybe infuse more of the flavours from the braise into the meat.

Since it's going to be seared I don't see why you couldn't braise ahead of time then heated through during the searing process when you're ready to eat.

Since I was being fancy and French anyway, I broke out some Brittany Grey finishing salt I picked up over Christmas, which provided a nice accent and a little crunch to the dish. Since this is the only salt added to the salad just use kosher or sea salt if you skip the finishing salt.

Garnishing with greens and Parmesan made this healthy dish awfully colourful, too. And it tasted just great - this is one we'll definitely repeat.

Pan-Seared Octopus with White Bean Salad
adapted from SBS Food
Ready to serve!

750 g octopus
100 ml dry white wine
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1 Tbsp kosher salt

White bean salad
200g canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp finely diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp finely diced red onion
2 Tbsp finely diced cucumbers
2 Tbsp finely diced tart apple
1 seeded, stemmed and minced bird's eye chilli
Zest and juice of one lime
4 tsp good extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground cumin
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
Ground black pepper, to taste

Good extra virgin olive oil
Brittany grey sea salt (if you don't have it use kosher salt)
Baby arugula or greens (optional)
Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 300F

Clean octopus and place in an ovenproof pan. Pour wine over top with 2 tsp of olive oil, thyme and peppercorns. Toss to incorporate the ingredients, then tuck garlic cloves into the liquid around the octopus. Bring to a simmer on the stove top, cover with foil and braise in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.

About half an hour before searing the octopus, combine all salad ingredients and allow flavours to combine before plating. When ready to sear the octopus, divide the salad between two plates.

When octopus is tender, remove it from the braising liquid, cut it into manageable pieces and toss with remaining 2tsp of oil. Discard the braising liquid. Sear the octopus in a hot cast iron pan for a few minutes on each side (until some caramelization forms) and divide to serve on top of the bean salad.

Garnish with salt and, if desired, arugula and Parmesan

Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a meal.