M. Andrew Gordon

Octopus confit with mussels and beans

In Seafood on October 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I have been wanting to cook octopus confit for about a year, waiting patiently for the right moment.  Octopus has long been one of my favorite foods to cook and ever since I had a grilled octopus dish at Ceiba in Washington, D.C.  That grilled octopus haunts my dreams and not because I envision a ghostly mollusc out to seek revenge with charred tentacles but because the delicate flavor and that wonderful grilled smokiness was so damned delicious.

When planning the menu for the dinner party, octopus seemed a fine thing to work into the menu and I was inspired by recently reading a recipe for a mussel and white bean stew in Food & Wine and thought that I could make something similar with an addition of octopus confit.  It was worth a try anyway.

For any readers in the Boston-area, the New Deal Fish Market in Cambridge is a great place to get seafood.  The help is knowledgeable and helpful.  When Lena called to find out if they would have several pounds available, they told her they could have 1,000 pounds ready.  Just in case you decide to cook for 3,300 sometime.

Personally, this might have been my favorite dish of the night, although the ragout and the dessert gave it a run for its money.  I paired this with Berkshire Brewing’s Gold Spike Ale, although in truth, I did toy with the idea of pairing this with wine.  But the clean, crisp flavors of the Gold Spike, a kölsch, with its low alcohol and low hop profile, went along nicely with the octopus here.

Octopus Confit with Mussels and Cannellini Beans

Serves 10

  • 3 pounds octopus (tentacles – you don’t want the head, not that any good fishmonger would pawn that off)
  • 1.5 liters olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, whole
  • 2 dried chiles
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 shallots, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped and loosely packed, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 cans cannellini beans (15.5 ounce cans), drained*
  1. In large pot, combine octopus, olive oil, garlic, chiles, and bay leaves.  Oil should cover octopus.  Cook over low heat, simmering, for an hour and a half or until octopus is tender.  To check, use point of sharp knife.  Remove octopus and garlic to a platter and discard olive oil or find some other use.
  2. In another pot, combine butter and two tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add half the shallots, the parsley, and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add mussels and wine and cover tightly.  Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the mussels have opened.
  3. Remove mussels, discarding any that did not open, and pull meat from shells, catching any liquid in bowl with mussels.  Strain out the liquid and reserve.
  4. Slice octopus into half-inch pieces.
  5. In large skillet, heat remaining olive oil.  Add remaining shallots and cook for several minutes.  Add beans and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add mussels and their liquid.  Pour in about a cup of the strained cooking liquid.  Add octopus and warm through.  Serve with garnish of parsley.
* I soaked dried beans for the dish I served although canned beans may have been just as good.  Besides the beans and chicken stock, I also added dried chiles, garlic, rosemary, and an onion to the soaking liquid.
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