Friday, June 30, 2006

Summer Cold Dishes - Poulpe à la Grecque

Boy is it hot outside! We have guests coming and I am fixing some Poulpe à la Grecque. It is great as a cold salad topping or to serve as an elegant appetizer.

Octopus is very cheap from the fishmonger, it's pretty tough in texture in comparison to calamari, which is easily twice the price from my fishmonger. I love to prepare it though, and you don't need too much effort to make it come out tender and delicious. My fishmonger advises that I freeze the fresh octopus I buy from him, to make it more tender. He says that they used to beat it on the docks in Marseille but they don't do that anymore, and freezing it does the same thing.

I took the three small octopuses I had frozen out and let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Last night, when I got home from work and had other things going, I prepared this dish, which is inspired by a french recipe for octopus "a la grecque", although I don't use the same spices nor do I think it is like they serve it in Greece! I washed them well under cold running water, and was ready to start.

300 - 400 g. octopus
1 lemon
1 t. sea salt
2 T. olive oil
one onion
2 cloves
2 t. sichuan peppercorns
2 t. coriander seeds
1/2 cup dry rose (or white) wine
1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

(Note above the ingredients are exactly as I prepared the dish this time, and I think I'm going to continue to prepare it this way, but that doesn't mean that you have to. Feel free to experiement and substitute, I do!)
Peel the skin off the octopus, and empty out the center cavities, and sharp ribs on the inner walls of the pouch.
Cut them into pieces and let them soak for 30 minutes in cold water.

After they've soaked, boil them for 5 minutes in salted water with the juice of one lemon added.

While that's going, prepare your bouquet ball. The original recipe from Chef Jacques Le Divellic, calls for 2 T. coriander seeds. But I felt that the strong flavor of all that coriander overpowered the delicate flavors and it lost important nuance. I've been experimenting, and have wanted for some time to try sichuan pepper corns. So this time, I put 2 cloves, 2 t. sechuan pepper corns, and 2t. coriander seeds in the ball.

Sweat one finely minced onion. When the octopus has boiled for 5 minutes, scoop it out of the water and add to the onion, and let that sautee for a couple of minutes.

Add the ball to the sauteeing octopus and onions, the juice of one lime, and add about 1/2 cup dry rose wine, I've used a cote du provence.

Add another cup of water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and let simmer for one hour. At the end of an hour, take it off the heat, and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container with the bouquet ball and refrigerate overnight.

Voila, a cool, tender, delicious mouth watering treat waiting for us when we came home from a long hot tiring day. Note on the flavors infused by the mix: The long infused sichuan peppercorns give a distinct floral taste to the dish, a nice suprise. The flavor of the cloves were not perceptible. The peppercorns and the coriander seeds balanced well, and I felt the overall flavor was more balanced and subtle (and more fresh and floral) than with only coriander seeds. The perfect thing to accompany this is a crystal glass of ice cold lillet blanc.

Another idea is to get two or three pots going and have different spice mixes in each pot, like one pot with black peppercorns, one with sechuan, and one with coriander, or mustard. Mix them together just before serving, and then each bite would be a suprise of a different taste...

Bon appetit!

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Blogger Elisa said...

Another way to make your octopus tender, without freezing it (fresh is better to me :), is to cook with the pan covered. Remember to cut a paper larger than your pan and cover to put between the two. The paper I mean is that of bags used by bakers for bread, otherwise that you use for food cooked in the oven.
I don't know the exact name in English...sorry about that :(

P.S. your blog is gorgeous!

12:07 AM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

That is called parchment paper in English. Thank you Elisa, I'll give that a try the next time I prepare this dish, instead of freezing the octopus.

11:40 AM, November 09, 2006  

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