Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Octopus, basil & white wine

Excellent fresh octopus are being fished out of Eden on the far south coast at the moment. Light braises and warm salads are some of my favourite late summer cooking and eating, and made with seafood can partner very well with pinot grigio, vermentino or Hunter semillon.

Take one medium-sized fresh whole octopus. Cut between head and legs, push out beak, slit down the side of head, trim membrane to remove guts, cut out the eyes and give everything a good rinse. Take care to not break the ink sack. You will end up with the head in one piece and the legs in another. Add to simmering water in which you have a bay leaf, some peppercorns and seed of wild fennel. Simmer, skimming to remove scum, until the octopus is tender. An hour is often about right.

While the octopus is simmering, finely dice onion and red capsicum. Sweat very slowly in olive oil with a little salt until very soft (as per a Spanish sofrito), adding chopped garlic near the end. When soft, lift the heat and deglaze with white wine, then back to a simmer.

Take the octopus from the water. Remove any skin you don't feel like eating, then cut the head and tentacles into bite sized pieces. Add these to the sauce and stir for a minute or two over low heat to get the octopus to take up some flavour. Add sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar to bring the sauce up to a balance of sweet/sour, check seasoning and remove from heat. Stir in a generous amount of torn fresh basil leaves and serve.

Good with bread and butter, and a glass of something white and fresh.

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