A couple weeks ago I had a hankering for comfort food. And what was the first thing that came to mind? 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 even peanut butter and jelly 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 alongside.
Recipe: Octopus Stew
- 1 pound fresh octopus, ask your fishmonger to clean for you
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into rough pieces
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, mashed into a paste
- 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 small lemon, zest only
- 1 15 ounces can small white beans, navy or even chickpeas
- kosher salt, to taste
- more olive oil for a drizzle
- 1/8 cup of minced fresh parsley
- Place the potatoes into a large heavy pot and cover with cold water.
- Simmer, until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water and then drain the potatoes. Set aside.
- Dry out the pot, and add the olive oil.
- Heat over medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until tender, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and chili flakes, stirring for 1 minute.
- Add the cleaned octopus. Stir.
- Cook over medium-low heat until they turn slightly pink and curl up about 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved potato water.
- Stir in the potatoes, beans and lemon zest, heat for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the parsley.
- Remove from the heat.
- Season with salt.
- Drizzle with olive oil.