A couple weeks ago I had a hunkering for comfort food. And what was the first thing that came to mind? Why Octopus Stew, doesn’t everyone crave that when they think of comfort. Now, this was a very strange thought for me, as I typically think of childhood memories such as mac and cheese, or tender beef stew, or p&J sandwiches. I never had octopus as a child, and I am sure I would have cringed at the mere thought. I am positive that my Basque heritage was swimming in octopus recipes, and that is what I blame for this sudden craving out of nowhere.
Lenny did grow up eating octopus, traditionally for holiday meals. His mother still makes a traditional Portuguese recipe during the season, but, I am not a fan of the big daddy octopuses that she uses, so Lenny indulges for the both of us. I prefer the small, tender morsels that were plucked from the sea much too early, but they are almost bite size and succulent.
I made a version of this particular recipe from Gourmet Magazine, a few years ago, but when this hunkering overtook me, I decided to change things around a bit. While the original recipe is wonderfully delightful, I am definitely a fan of this new version. Normally the recipe calls for using canned octopus as well as vinegar and tapenade. I liked the slightly pickled taste, but was not in love with it. This time I still opted to use fresh octopus, and I loaded the dish with chili peppers, olive oil, onion, garlic (lots), lemon zest and white beans. The finished dish was spicy but fresh, the octopus was tender and the beans and potatoes made the broth rich and creamy. It was so perfect served in deep bowls with warm crusty bread along side.