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This dinner looks pretty delicious, right? It was actually the most adventurous thing I’ve ever cooked!

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Last week I received a text from my fiance that there was no need to go to the grocery because he’d already been shopping at Whole Foods. I arrived home to a fridge that looked like it had been stocked for the show Chopped. It included a yucca, a daikon radish, osso buco and an octopus. Yes, an octopus. The yucca, daikon radish and osso buco I could get on board with…but a whole octopus? Seriously?

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His response was that we like to order it in restaurants so why not try it at home? I can’t say I was super thrilled about cooking an octopus but there was also no way I was letting it go to waste. I spent the better part of a day thinking about how I could cook it and researching recipes. I didn’t find much online that really excited me so I turned to The Gourmet Cookbook, which never steers me wrong. Their recipe for Provencal Braised Octopus looked great so I decided to take the plunge (ha) and give it a try.

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Step one was to simmer the octopus in a large pot with aromatics for about an hour and a half.

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This is what it looked like at the end of simmering.

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Step two was to rub the outer purple coating off of the octopus. I delegated that task to the one who brought the octopus home!

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Here it is after the coating was removed.

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Next I sliced it into rings to prepare it to go into the sauce.

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The octopus braised in a mixture of petit diced tomatoes, kalamata olives, herbs, garlic, onions and red pepper flakes for another hour or so.

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And then I served it over zucchini noodles and topped it with Parmesan.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was really going to be able to eat it after going through the prep and cooking process but it was actually a really, really delicious dish. The octopus was very tender and the tomato sauce was flavorful. The olives seemed like a strange addition but the saltiness of them was the thing that brought the whole dish together.

Would I make it again? Yes, although I did instruct my fiance that he must clear all future octopus purchases with me before bringing another one home! This is a once every couple of years kind of dish.

What I loved about this whole experience was that it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and gave me a lot of confidence about my skills in the kitchen. This was the most adventurous thing I’ve ever cooked and I was excited when it turned out so well.

Two questions…

1) Would you cook octopus at home? (Or have you!?)

2) What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever cooked?

And for those who might want to try this at home…the recipe! It’s not posted online, only in the cookbook so here she is…

Provencal Braised Octopus
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook with a few modifications)

Ingredients:

1 (2-lb) frozen cleaned octopus, thawed, or one fresh
2 medium onions, 1 quartered, 1 finely diced
4 garlic cloves, 2 left whole and 2 minced
3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon finely minced thyme
3 fresh parsley sprigs
5 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 (16-0z) can petite diced or crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted black or kalamata olives, diced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:

Put octopus in a large pot and add enough water to cover by two inches. Add quartered onion, whole garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and peppercorns and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer gently, partially covered, until octopus is tender when pierced with a fork and purple outer layer rubs off easily, about 1-1.5 hours.

Drain octopus and transfer to a bowl of cold water to cool. Rub off purple outer coating, skin and fatty layer from octopus, leaving suckers intact, if desired. (We did…because…why not?) Cut tentacles from octopus if it still has the head and discard head. (I know, luckily mine did not still have the head).  Cut tentacles into 1 inch rings.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onion and minced garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add wine, tomatoes with juices, octopus, olives, chopped thyme, salt and chilies to the pot. Partially cover and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until octopus is very tender and sauce has thickened, 45-60 minutes. During this time I added the cup of chicken broth because the sauce was getting to thick and I cooked it for over an hour. You may or may not need to use it (or may not need all of it).

Serve octopus over rice, zucchini noodles, pasta or whatever else sounds good. Garnish with more parsley and parmesan cheese if desired.

Yield: 2-3 servings. Double it if you’re feeding a crowd.

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