Speedy was at our local supermarket not too long ago when his eye fell on a tray containing two enormous, beautiful octopuses (octopi?). With great excitement he asked Sherry behind the counter what the story was.
With a big sigh she explained that a customer had ordered the octopus, but had then changed her mind and decided not to buy them after all, thereby leaving the store holding the bag, as it were.
Speedy was delighted with the appearance of the octopus, and the price was very reasonable, so good hunter-gatherer that he is, he brought one home. Sherry was thrilled and said that she would probably be given a week off for selling one. When I say it was big, I mean it was Big – at over two pounds it was larger than what we’re accustomed to finding in Italy. We ate about one-quarter of it as an antipasto that very night; the other three-quarters repose in the freezer where they are becoming ever more tender. (Gone are the days when you had to hurl your octopus against a wall to tenderize it; freezing does the trick perfectly.)
The next time Speedy was in the market he asked Sherry when she was getting her week off. Sadly she told him that in fact she was not given time off for the sale. What a pity.
It’s funny about octopus in the U.S. Delicious as it is, it is not commonly eaten in much of the country. I suppose in the big sophisticated cities like New York and L.A. there is a certain following for the tentacled treat. But here in the desert – well, it’s just never found on a menu or in a market fish case. Which would seem downright insane to any self-respecting Italian.
Octopus can be prepared in a number of ways. Speedy likes a cold salad with oil, garlic, lemon and parsley. Our friend Tay is mad for the Mexican version in a salsa close to pico de gallo, but with lemon or lime juice. A simple warm Spanish salad with oil, potato slices, hot chili and parsley is also quite yummy. Mario Batali has a nice recipe here which you can try… if you can find an octopus. Ask at our market – my guess is they still have one lurking about somewhere!