"Matt is thoroughly excited about eating Ursula for dinner." As one of my best friends, a frequent cooking partner, and the roommate I raked up the most years with so far in life (unless you're counting Candice), me and Ashley know each other pretty well. When I emailed her about my experiment, she responded in exactly an Ashley way, which meant was she wasn't totally decisive, but she was trying to come up with the right answer. She knew I wanted to be challenged, but also that I wanted to cook/eat something yummy. She knew that we'd sat down around her famous pork roast with mango chutney enough times that if I tried to cook it myself, it would be an embarrassment. She was probably also racking her brain trying to come up with something she'd known I never tried before. "Carrot soup? Would that be fun for you?" she asked.
So, I took matters into my own hands and made some octopus. Ashley, who's a relatively adventurous eater, hadn't tasted octopus before she travelled to Italy in 2010. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Ever since, whenever we see octopus on a menu, she orders it, or starts a conversation about how yummy it is... a conversation I'm always ready and willing to have.
Matty joined too. We'd all lived together (+Dan!) until April of this year and it was so much fun to have the gang back together again, including my corgi Beej who freaks out every time he gets to see his auntie and his Matt (not quite an uncle, not quite a foster brother) . I decided to turn the octopus adventure into a Spanish fiesta. I've always loved how well chorizo compliments octopus, so I grilled up some yummy bread, bought some fancy olives and stewed the octopus in a chunky, Mediterranean tomato and garlic sauce.
With all of my side dishes mostly store-bought, I could really focus on the octopus, which was freaking me out! I read tens of recipes, all with a different "secret" for tender octopus. From brining in salt water (sorry, isn't it brined by nature?), to soaking in milk overnight, beating it out on your counter top with a mallet, sticking it in a KitchenAid mixer with the bread hook attachment for 7 minutes (Guy Fieri, ladies and gentlemen. But I was pretty curious to see if this would work.), cooking it super duper fast, and cooking it really long and slow... I was exhausted just thinking about how to do this.
Then, I came across the few recipes that were pretty much like "just cook it forever" and that's really my kinda cooking. Cooking that sits on your stove all Sunday and fills your home with yummy smells. You're suddenly Ruth Reichl, sipping a rioja on your couch and tweeting things like:
Ugh such a beautiful day and my apartment smells like the coast of Spain! Octopus and garlic stewing, chorizo sliced, bread ready to grill!
— Hillary Reeves (@hillreeves) September 8, 2013
In the end, the octopi were definitely not worth all of the strife. And while feeling up a dead cephalopod for a "beak" (which my mother, whom I called in sort of a desperate moment, referred to as "sort of fingernail-looking" EW!) was just as freaky as the first time I stuck my hand inside a bird's "cavity," now that I've done it once, I'll absolutely be doing it again. Even if it does sort of look like a creature from the deep/Ursula is taking over your kitchen: