Octopus Salad with Heirloom Potatoes and Salted Capers
May 27, 2008
You don’t have to beat your octopus against the white washed wall of your home in the Cyclades Islands, David, but you’ll look manly when you do it. Make sure you spray a little Evian Brumisateur on your brow to simulate sweat just before you begin. The sunlight will make you glisten.
You could also set your washing machine for the delicate cycle and give the 8 tentacled beast a whirl. Personally, I don’t have the space in my kitchen for a dedicated octopus machine and my guess is that your island retreat is humble, yet well appointed.
Instead, I opt for cooking these mystical creatures slowly, just beneath a simmer, in white wine until knife tender. I’ve thrown a cork in now and then as I was shown on the shores of the Adriatic, but only for an excuse to open another bottle of wine. Jennifer’s grandmother says it must be two corks, just pulled from the bottles.
However you decide to man handle your octopus, look good when you sit down to lunch. I would consider a lightweight cotton shirt with a tight weave so it snaps in the breeze.
Rinse a 2 kilo octopus in spring water. Bring a bottle of dry white wine, the octopus, 2 bay leaves and 10 pink peppercorns to a gentle simmer, slowly. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the largest part of the tentacles around the skirt yield to your sharp knife. Reserve the broth and cool.
Remove the skin and cut the tentacles on the diagonal. Save the pieces of tentacles with thick, fatty skin for grilling tomorrow. Juicy.
Clean 1 pound of Dark Red Norlands, French Fingerling or some other firm and creamy varietal. Cut into 1/2 in cubes and boil in the octopus broth with 2 pinches of salt until fork tender. Drain and cool.
In a large glass bowl, combine the potatoes, the trimmed octopus, a handful of salted capers and a deseeded, cayenne minced finely. Add a pinch of smoked paprika, a handful of fino verde and some leaves of flat parsley. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and another drop. Squeeze in half a lemon to brighten the flavors. Taste for salt. You shouldn’t need much if you didn’t rinse your capers.
Serve with Il Mimo Nebbiolo Rosato. Finish the lunch with fresh figs, Parmigiano Reggiano and finally a small glass of calvados or Poire William.