This is another dish that came out of the collaboration with Teun and Albert. I wanted Teun to try octopus sous-vide, and I remember how much I liked the char-grilled octopus at La Madia in Sicily. Although we ended up doing something different, our original idea was to do something along the lines of the octopus dish from La Madia. That dish featured a rock. Due to timing constraints (and also because the rock at La Madia wasn’t very tasty even though it looked great), we decided to go for a soft octopus sponge cake instead.
Recently, Paul of That Other Cooking Blog wrote about a microwave brioche. This is a trick that was originally devised by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. A batter with a lot of eggs is siphoned into paper cups with nitrous oxide and then cooked for 30 seconds in a microwave oven to get a sponge cake. As octopus leaks a lot of juices when cooked, we thought it would be nice to reduce those juices to a thick octopus syrup and use that to flavor a sponge. We thought it would pair well with a bell pepper coulis, and when we realised our menu needed more vegetables we also included some oven-roasted romanesco (green cauliflower).
The resulting dish had great flavor with multiple layers. Charcoal grilling gave the octopus a very nice flavor and all the components paired very well with each other. The plating did not turn out as nice as we had hoped. Next time we will have to make the sponges bigger and perhaps we can try to make more of a rock by putting the sponges in a dehydrator. We parcooked the romanesco sous-vide, which is good for the flavor but it did lose some of the green color. The red of the bell peppers also didn’t work very well with the pink/purple of the octopus. So the flavor was outstanding, but, although the photo doesn’t do it justice, we will improve the plating. Here’s what we did.
1 octopus of about 1 – 1.5 kg (2.2 -3.3 lbs)
5 red bell peppers
1 romanesco (green cauliflower)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
25 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) flour
balsamic vinegar and/or red wine vinegar to taste
sugar to taste
1 or 2 N2O capsules (depending on the size of your whip)
juice of 1 lemon
Season the octopus parts with salt and freshly ground black pepper and vacuum seal. Cook sous-vide for 3 hours at 85C/185F. (You can cook the head and body of the octopus along with the arms to serve them in another way. We had them as an amuse bouche, simply served with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and some parsley.)
Reheat the bell pepper coulis (in the microwave). Arrange a ‘sea’ of bell pepper coulis on each warm plate with an octopus ‘rock’ and an octopus arm in the middle, and some green romanesco rooks around it. Sprinkle the octopus with a few drops of lemon juice before serving.
This dish has strong multi-layered flavors, so you need a dry white wine that can hold its own against that. We enjoyed it with a pinot bianco from Alto Adige.