Until recently, I had yet to see octopus in any stores locally. Even in the south, I generally encounter them frozen and, so, when I saw a fresh whole octopus here in my local supermarket I snapped up, despite the price tag of $50 for a 2kg specimen…
Actually, the price I paid is not that bad given that I will get several dishes from this single purchase… before getting to that point, though, the octopus needs a little preparation … Continue reading “Foodstuff: Octopus”
Red Cooked, or 紅燒 dishes, are, as I have explained in previous posts, those in which the main ingredients are braised with soy sauce, giving them a dark, often reddish color. One encounters pork cooked this way with dried squid from time to time and I originally intended to do that here but, on discovering I had run out of squid, I decided to use some dried octopus I happened to have on hand instead. This dish, whether with squid or octopus, is not one you will find on many restaurant menus but is rather more of a rich, home-style preparation. Normally, especially in Cantonese cuisine, red-cooked dishes are spiced with Star Anise, and possibly cinnamon, orange peel, or the like. I am not fond of the addition of the sweeter aromatics in dishes of this type so I am omitting them here and have instead added just a little dried chili and Galanga, both of which you might find in Sichuanese interpretations.
By the way, the process for reconstituting and preparing the octopus for cooking is largely the same as that for Dried Squid, so you may want to take a look at my earlier post on that topic. Also, you really ought to look at my notes at the end of this post before trying this dish yourselves… Continue reading “Red Cooked Pork with Dried Octopus”
Every time I have eaten octopus in a restaurant it has either been grilled or else served cold and sliced as a sashimi selection. Recently, in Ottawa, however, I saw an appetizer selection on the menu at the Empire Grill which was called ‘Steamed Octopus alla Parmentara’. I am not sure what the Parmentara signifies (and a google search reveals nothing of note), but I couldn’t resist giving it a try. In the event, the dish, which you see pictured above, proved not only to be quite a bit different from what I was expecting but also something of a disappointment…
The menu description ran as follows:
STEAMED OCTOPUS ALLA PARMENTARA … Octopus with green onions, dried cranberries and pistachios with garlic lemon dressing served over potato puree.
What was surprising about the dish was that it was served cold (or very nearly so), which was not something I anticipated from the menu description. The octopus part was completely cold while the pureed potatoes were somewhere between cool and lukewarm. I am not sure if this was intended, or whether they were supposed to be warm and cooled off, or cold and weren’t chilled sufficiently, but the result was something I really wasn’t sure I liked.
As for the rest of the dish, the cranberry and pistachios worked nicely towards the final effect but the octopus itself was very poorly done. What I like best about properly prepared octopus is the lovely, chewy texture of the flesh but, here, the effect was dry and had rather the cardboard-like texture of canned octopus. Since they specify that their octopus is ‘steamed’ I would hate to think they actually did use a canned product but, given the quality, I have to wonder.
Anyway, as I mentioned, this dish was a disappointment, both in terms of visual appeal and taste experience and, were I to render this dish myself, the potato puree would definitely have to go. Would any of my readers have any suggestions as to a suitable replacement?
I first ate octopus aboard a Portuguese Navy Destroyer back in 1981 and I have loved it ever since. It is a shame, however, that, although I have eaten it many different times, and many different ways, I have yet to have had an opportunity to cook it in my own kitchen. I’d love to try my hand at it sometime as I gather that can be a bit of a challenge. Apparently, it is a delicacy that requires considerable preparation (such as prolonged pounding) to tenderize it before cooking.
One of my favorite ways to eat octopus is as sashimi as this really allows the delicate sweetness of the flesh to shine. Sashimi is generally associated with raw fish or shellfish (even meat occasionally), but there are a few specialties, such as octopus, that are exceptions. Octopus, I can only assume, would be far too tough and chewy to be eaten in its natural state, although, in the interests of culinary experimentation, I’d probably be willing to give it a try sometime…
The slices of octopus sashimi pictured above was served to me at Ken’s Japanese Restaurant in Ottawa a while ago. The knife work really wasn’t very expertly handled on this occasion (and this can make a surprising difference to almost all types of sashimi), but the flesh was still nicely tender and very sweet as well. Normally, in these ‘Notable Nosh’ posts, I just feature a single dish, but I thought that this time I might also share a couple of other octopus preparations as well… Continue reading “Notable Nosh: Octopus”
271 Dalhousie St., Ottawa – (613) 241-4381 – Website
Date of Visit: March 13, 2013
I have tried to visit Spiga on a couple of different trips to Ottawa but something has always intervened and made it impossible. Just recently, however, I managed to get there for lunch and I enjoyed the pleasant house wine and a couple of very interesting dishes… Continue reading “Review: Café Spiga”
I’ve been meaning to feature this product for sometime now but my current package has been languishing in the freezer for ages waiting for the right meal. For a long time, I was using another very similar frozen seafood mixture made by a different company (whose name I can’t now recall) and I was originally going to feature that one in a ‘Foodstuffs’ post but didn’t get around to it. That brand was pretty good but the Aquastar version is actually much better…. Continue reading “Foodstuff: Seafood Medley – Aquastar Brand”