“Reach into your memory and come up with … what food actually regenerated your system, not so you can leap tall buildings, but so you can turn off the alarm clock with vigor.”
– Jim Harrison, The Raw and the Cooked
We’re certainly not the first bloggers to find ourselves stretched thin between the demands of our regular working lives and the rather strange, post-modern existence we eke out on the interwebs, and, as happens to us every now and then, we’re kind of in the middle of one of those periods right now. Combine that with the fact that it’s been crazy hot here lately — making the prospect of getting creative in the kitchen of our sweat-lodge-like four-story walk-up apartment distinctly unattractive — and our resulting culinary output has been truly meager.
On the few occasions we have been behind the burners, it’s only been for short periods, and, in this case, just long enough to cook marinaded baby octopus a la plancha in a cast-iron skillet. This is the result. It was delicious, and, yes, our apartment was a few hundred degrees for the rest of the evening. Seeking to avoid these sauna conditions, we have recently resorted to the dangerously illegal practice of grilling things over a tiny fold-up barbecue on the roof of our apartment building. With a bit of luck, the steamy conditions will break before repeated exposure to grilling temperatures melts a sink-hole into the ceiling above us.
- 1lb baby octopus, cleaned and sliced down one side to open them up.
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes/chili flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 orange, supremed, and juiced
- 1 head fennel, leafy tops removed and chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons kalamata olives, halved
- 2 tablespoons pistachios, bashed up a bit
- In a non-reactive bowl, place octopus, salt, ground fennel seeds, black pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, orange juice and chopped up fennel tops. Stir well and leave covered for up to 1 hour.
- Pre-heat oven to 350F/175C.
- Slice fennel bulb into 1/4 inch slices, long-wise and arrange on a baking sheet. Anoint generously with salt, black pepper and olive oil. Put in oven for 15 minutes, turn slices over and repeat until they start to get crispy.
- Pre-heat cast-iron skillet to high
- Shake marinade off octopus, and place in hot pan.
- Cook each ‘pus for around 3-4 minutes per side, before turning over.
- After first side is done, you’ll notice a reddish brown gunk on your pan, before turning over, scrape as much of this off as possible, as it’ll start to burn and give your octopus a bitter flavor otherwise.
- Remove cooked octopii to a plate until all are done and then serve with roasted fennel, supremes of orange, kalamata olives and pistachios.
- We added boiled potatoes to make it into a main course, but feel free not to if you’re making it as a first course.
- Serve with a chilled white wine, an albarino would be rather nice.