He who brings home challenging seafood must figure out how to cook it.
This happens. I send one of my men to the market to get some simple white fish and he comes back with bloody hunks of saw-cut tuna, or I send one for some easy squid and he comes back with octopus. Honestly, I have been meaning to commit myself to octopus in a big way. The local fishermen at the Punic Ports, on my corner, have intriguing clay pots on a rope they use to trap and draw them in. I saw a menu item in Croatia for a clay-pot braised octopus and I am so going to make that. Do you know what puts me off? The beak. Octopuses have beaks and you have to clean them from the flesh. Ew. Here is what you do, though. Cut the legs from the head, right below the eyes. The beak will still be attached to the leg portion, so push that out. Flip the hood assembly inside out and gut it. Then, skin the outer membrane from the outside of the hood. Rinse it all under fresh water, and flip the guts out on the sidewalk for the neighborhood cats. While you do all of this cleaning, put a pot of salted water to boil. When it reaches a boil, dip the octopus pieces in three times each to blanch them. The muscles will tighten and curl. Put all of the octopus in the boiling water, reduce the heat to a mere simmer and cook for 45-60 minutes or until it is tender. Now, you can do what you want with it. We dipped the braised octopus in egg, then Panko, and pan fried them.
For my part, I made a pretty, pretty chickpea soup. The truth is that I was watching the ABC interview of Amanda Knox yesterday on the Internet and it made me ravenously hungry for the best chickpea soup of my life which was from a tiny restaurant in Perugia. Perugia is the Amanda Knox connection. I connected to the tragic Amanda Knox story on many levels and I am a little embarrassed to admit that hunger was one of them.
I was home yesterday, prepping for today, so I first soaked my chickpeas by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak for 2 hours. I drained the peas, then, returning them to the pot, and added two chopped onions, 2-3 chopped carrots, 2-3 chopped celery stalks, with leaves, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a large sprig or two of sage and rosemary, and a couple of bay leaves. I cooked this for a couple more hours, until the beans were a little al dente, then cooled it and refrigerated it over night. The next day, the peas were completely infused with the scents of the vegetables and herbs. I sauted some pancetta and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and pureed the pancetta, tomato paste, and 3/4 of the peas in a food processor. Then, I returned the peas to the pot to heat. To serve, I topped it with some pan-fried pancetta and sage leaves.