My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch!

Bento Recipes: Octopus


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Haven't had octopus? It's not as weird as you might think. Not much weirder than a lot of seafood. For example, have you seen a live shrimp? It's a bug of the sea! Lobsters look like giant scorpions. And if you've ever eaten escargot, then octopus shouldn't seem freaky at all.

I've cooked baby octopi, because I've heard the adult ones are tough and need a lot of pulverizing with a hammer to make them nonrubbery. Now, chances are you won't find cleaned octopi; they aren't sold all nice and neat and ready-to-cook like chicken are. Cleaning them, however, is no big deal. Simply turn the head inside out, cutting the thin wall of connective tissue holding it together as you do so. It'll be fairly obvious which parts are the organs; work those away from the wall of the head with your knife, then cut 'em off. Turn the head back rightside-in, then turn the octopus upside-down and spread the tentacles. The beak will be in the center. Fold the tentacles back over the head and hold it so you can gently squeeze the whole thing to evert the beak, which you can easily pry out with the point of a knife. A quick rinse, and you're done.

To saute octopi, simply drain them and cut them up into bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind that they will shrink during cooking. Heat a tablespoon or two of butter, depending on how much octopus you have, on medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the octopus and stir-fry them. Watch with fascination as the tentacles squirmily curl up by themselves. After about two minutes take the pan off the heat; overcooking octopus will make it tough, and baby octopus cooks fast.

I've served these over konnyaku noodles, which I sauteed with the seafood to allow the flavors to mix. I plan to try other options and recipes and post the results here.