A charger of both culinary and art inspiration, the octupus is one of the creatures that speed up among food dishes, arts and crafts. There’s something about the flexible tentacles, the symmetry of the suckers, its ability to transform and camouflage, its intelligence, its speed and nocturnal hunting habits, its mythical reputation right up to its starring role in Jules Verne 20 000 Leagues. The humble octopus is used symbolically and surrealistically and mad fantasies are used to imply sexual innuendo.
If visual arts look for impressive (octopus) images, gourmet cuisine reproduces the same obsession when seeking tasty results able to thrill the sophisticated palate. For the ‘drunken’ octopus in red wine and sage I chose the pairing with the grotesque verging-on-kitsch portrait by the photographer Yumito Utsu, who borrows the spirit of the Surrealists (particularly Dali) to show a mysterious (funny and scary) very-much-alive animal in the place of food.
The combination of octopus with peppery sage is flavorful especially when paired with red wine. The recipe is simple, quick and saves time for other seafood preparation on cooking industrious days such as Clean Monday. Fresh or frozen octopus can be used – the latter is preferred as it has already been tenderized and saves the stress of wandering if it’ll be soft and juicy.
Cleaning the octopus is an easy task and involves removing the hard, central part of the hood, which contains the eyes and the stomach. Also remember the octopus shrinks during cooking as it is mainly made of water, so calculate servings accordingly especially if it is intended for the main course.
What to drink: The soft and juicy flesh of the octopus goes well with a fresh, aromatic, mature white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. We recently tried a bottle of Ktima Karypidi (Karypidi Estate) 2012 that was very enjoyable. Don’t rush to drink it though until you enjoy the bouquet from your glass as it then grounds the taste of the octopus.
Tip: Never drink this particular wine with pickled octopus!
octopus in red wine and sage
Preparation: Total time 40-45 mins. If using frozen octopus, defrost from the previous evening and leave until room temperature before cooking. Do not add salt during cooking- it doesn’t need it. Relatively quick and easy recipe.
Ingredients (for 6 people)
1 octopus weighing approx 1K
60ml red wine
2 bay leaves
2-3 leaves fresh sage or 5-6 dried
chopped parsley to serve
salt, freshly ground pepper
Preparing the octopus: Wash the octopus and remove the eyes and the beak (hard mouth) from the centre of the hood. Cut and remove the innards sac (stomach) and wash again.
Cooking the octopus: Place, as is, in a pan on med heat with the bay and sage. As soon as it begins to boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for 30-35 mins until soft. Add the wine, leave uncovered on med heat, until evaporated (5-10 mins).
Serving: Either whole or cut into pieces, serve octopus in red wine and sage with a pouring of olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley. Salt and pepper as desired.