I know I can get excited on this blog when things go well in the kitchen, but this time things went very well, and in spite of some less-than-propitious auguries, like still fighting a bad cold, and missing my deadline the night I had planned to do this meal.
I had headed for the Lobster Place on Saturday without any seafood choice in mind, but when I spotted some beautiful Spanish baby octopus in the shellfish area I just couldn’t pass them up. I had never prepared octopus before, but Barry and I were big fans of octopada, and almost never missed a chance to order them when they were spotted on a menu.
The challenge was engaged once I returned home, but by the time I had decided what to do with them it appeared it was going to be too late to enjoy them that night. We enjoyed a great inside “picnic” instead, one which was dominated by some extraordinary house-made culatello, and three excellent Italian cheeses, from Buon Italia across the hallway in Chelsea Market.
Meanwhile, since I didn’t want to leave the octopuses overnight without the help of some preservative, after dinner I placed the four little guys in a spicy marinade and returned them to the refrigerator. Now I had plenty of time to figure out the rest of the menu and shop for the one ingredient (fresh basil) I needed for the contorno I chose the next day, as well as a lemon for the finished octopus.
I was a little scared; Barry was scared. But I was totally organized before I turned on the range below the large ribbed grill and a large deep pan, and the octopus turned out awesome, as did the cauliflower. Also, my expectations for the seafood and vegetable pairing were fulfilled: The match seemed inspired, even if it was at least partly merely a function of my love for cauliflower and the fact that I already had some cherry tomatoes on hand.
The wine pairing may not have been quite so ideal, even if a very good Italian rose had seemed like it would be spot on. Fortunately we were able to extend the pleasures of the meal longer than usual (it was a warm evening, and both octopus and cauliflower tasted even better as they reached room temperature); that gave us the time to also try some delightful vinho verde leftover from a meal of a couple of days before. I think the white worked better than the rose, although we’re definitely going to look into a vinho verde red.
- baby octopus (3 oz. each) from Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, marinated overnight in garlic, oil, lemon, crushed dried japones peppers, and dried Italian oregano, then pan-grilled whole and seasoned, finished with Sorrento lemon from Eataly, oil and fresh oregano; served with flowerets of cauliflower from Manhattan Fruit Exchange sauteed in a pan in which garlic, crushed dried japones peppers, fennel and coriander seeds had been heated, the mix then braised with halved and seeded cherry tomatoes (from Manhattan Fruit Exchange) and finished with torn fresh basil leaves (from Eataly); and slices of a Demi-Baguette from Eataly.
- wine: Tuscan Rose, Castello di Ama Rosato 2010, from Eataly; Portuguese Vinho Verde Vera 2010 (gorgeous label!), from Astor Wines
[image from Barry]