Thursday, June 25, 2015

Polpi in Umido

     Italian Octopus Stew!  
     There are many Italian regional versions of Polpi in Umido.  Many Italian chefs prefer to use red wine rather than white wine when making this stew.  Pancetta, capers and basil are optional too.  Today's recipe has red wine, pancetta, capers and basil in the list of ingredients.  
     Polpi in Umido is a stew and it is not a pasta sauce.  This squid stew should be served with sliced Italian bread.  I worked with a few Italian chefs that wrote menus in restaurants that featured pasta as a central theme.  In Italian pasta restaurants, the entrées were often garnished with a twist of pasta.  The Polpi in Umido in the pictures was garnished with a small twist of linguettini.  
     While I was apprenticing in one Italian kitchen, a sauté chef from Venice used to garnish a few of the entrées with small fettucini pasta twists.  The Sicilian restaurant owner then said to the sauté chef, "Are you showing off our pasta again?  Good!  We want to show them how good it is!"  The Venetian saute chef always replied to the owner by saying "The best they never had!"  We took pride in our pasta at that restaurant!  A small twist of pasta does add a nice touch to a plate.  
     Octopus Preparation:
     About 1 1/3 cups of prepared octopus is needed for the Polpi in Umido recipe.  Save the remaining octopus leg meat pieces for another recipe.
     It is not necessary to remove the octopus skin for this recipe, but you can do so if you want pale color octopus meat.
     Step 1:  Cut the head and beak off of a medium size octopus.  (A 10 to 14 ounce octopus is good.  There will be some leftover for a second recipe.  Fresh octopus shrinks quite a bit, when it is cooked.)
     Cut the octopus, so there is a ring of legs with a hole in the middle where the head used to be.  (Save the head for another recipe or discard the head.) 
     Step 2:  Place enough water in a sauce pot to cover the octopus legs. 
     Bring the water to a boil over high heat. 
     Add a few pinches of sea salt. 
     Add 1/2 of a lemon. 
     Place the octopus in the boiling water. 
     After a minute or two, the octopus will be fully cooked and tender.  Do not poach the octopus for too long or is will become a rubbery tough texture.   
     Step 3:  Cool the octopus under cold running water. 
     Cut the octopus legs into medium bite size pieces.
     Keep the octopus chilled till it is needed.
     Polpi in Umido:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  (About 2 3/4 cups.)
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of imported canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes that are packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.  Be sure to add a proportion of the tomato juice from the can.
     Hand crush the tomatoes, till they break up into small pieces.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.  
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.  
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped pancetta.  
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.  
     Step 4:  Add the the reserved 1 1/3 cups of poached octopus leg pieces.
     Add the the reserved hand crushed tomatoes and their own juices.
     Sauté for about 1 minute.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of fish broth.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf. 
     Add 1 pinch of dried crushed red pepper.  (chile caribe) 
     Add sea salt and black pepper.  
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves.  
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.  
     Add 10 capers.   
     Step 7:  Gently simmer the stew for 30 to 40 minutes.  Allow the excess liquid to reduce till only a small amount of broth remains.  
     Step 8:  Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil just before serving.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the Polpi in Umido in a shallow stew bowl.
     Garnish with a small twist of linguettini pasta.  (Optional)
     Garnish the polpi in umido with a basil sprig.
     Serve with warm Italian bread on the side.  
     Peeled fresh overripe tomatoes can be used to make this recipe, but imported Italian tomatoes taste the best.  Nearly every European country has banned genetically modified food, so that is another good reason to use imported Italian tomatoes!     
     This is a great tasting Italian octopus stew!  

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