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Quarantine Kitchen

Braised Octopus in Tomato-Cumin-Fennel Broth

Octopus is turned into a home cook-friendly weeknight dinner with this Puglian and Spanish inspired braised octopus tentacle with roasted tomato broth.

Octopus tentacle might not be dominating American menus, but this seafood dish a hallmark of Southern Italian and Spanish cuisine. While this mollusk might be a new dinner item for your kitchen, it’s much easier to cook than you think! This hot roasted tomato and fennel broth is perfect for the cold nights coming in autumn.

There are two different routes you can take with octopus: pre-cooked or raw. Which one I use often depends on availability. I can find raw octopus at my local asian market, but there are times when cooked varieties are the only tentacles available. When using pre-cooked octopus, be sure to cut the cook time way down to avoid the aggressively rubbery texture most people think of when it comes to octopus and squid.

The first step to creating this recipe is to marinade the octopus tentacles in a mix of finely minced fennel bulb, olive oil, fennel seed, cumin seeds, red pepper flake, shaved garlic, and parsley. Combine tentacles with herbs, spices, and oils in a ziplock bag and massage together to be sure the tentacles are well covered. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking, but preferably closer to 6 hours.

Roast tomatoes and garlic on a sheet pan in the oven at 400º for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes caramelize slightly and the garlic is fully roasted.

I like to use ripe Roma tomatoes for this recipe because they’re usually the cheapest option that is also the most consistent. However, any whole, ripe tomato will work perfectly for this dish!

While your tomatoes are roasting, thickly chop half of a large sweet onion. This tomato broth relies on large pieces of onion to give it more texture, so be sure to stay away from finely chopped onion this time! After the tomatoes and garlic have roasted, set them to the side until cooled.

Add 1 tbsp oil to a large pan on medium-high heat. Add the onions to the pan and coat in the oil, gently frying until they become translucent. Remove the roasted garlic from their paper skins and add to the pan with the onions. (Roasted garlic tends to form a paste texture during the roasting process, so I like to use a spoon for this!)

Sauté the garlic and onions until onions begin to slightly brown on the edges. Deglaze the pan with white cooking wine and scrape any blackened bits from the bottom of the pan. Using you hards, crush the roasted tomatoes and add to the pan with the onions and garlic.

Stir often and cook down the tomato for about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring broth to a light boil.

Once your broth is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, on the back burner. Season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, red pepper flake, and cumin to taste.

Remove octopus from your ziplock bag, and season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Pour 1 tbsp of oil from the marinade into a hot cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sear octopus on both sides for about 3 minutes each—using a separate skillet to press the octopus will help get a harder char on the mollusk.

Once octopus has been charred on either side, remove it from the cast iron and place it into the hot simmering tomato broth. Be sure to cover the tentacle completely in liquid. Cook on medium-low, covered, until done and tender, about 1 hour.

Place Octopus in the middle of the plate and spoon hot broth over the meat. Garnish with a fennel strand and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and crispy potatoes or a crisp green salad and white wine!

Octopus Braised in Tomato-Cumin-Fennel Broth

2 lbs octopus tentacles

1/2 small fennel bulb, finely minced

1 bulb garlic, whole

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4-5 ripe roma tomatoes, halved

1/2 sweet onion, roughly chopped into large pieces

2 cups vegetable or seafood stock

1/4 cup white cooking wine

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seed

1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

salt/pepper/cumin/smoked paprika/red pepper flake, to taste

  1. Marinade the octopus tentacles in a mix of finely minced fennel bulb, olive oil, fennel seed, cumin seeds, red pepper flake, shaved garlic, and parsley. Combine tentacles with herbs, spices, and oils in a ziplock bag and massage together to be sure the tentacles are well covered. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking, but preferably closer to 6 hours.
  2. Cut tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet with garlic in the middle. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Roast tomatoes and garlic on a sheet pan in the oven at 400º for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes caramelize slightly and the garlic is fully roasted.
  3. While your tomatoes are roasting, thickly chop half of a large sweet onion. This tomato broth relies on large pieces of onion to give it more texture, so be sure to stay away from finely chopped onion this time! After the tomatoes and garlic have roasted, set them to the side until cooled.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to a large pan on medium-high heat. Add the onions to the pan and coat in the oil, gently frying until they become translucent. Remove the roasted garlic from their paper skins and add to the pan with the onions.
  5. Sauté the garlic and onions until onions begin to slightly brown on the edges. Deglaze the pan with white cooking wine and scrape any blackened bits from the bottom of the pan. Using you hards, crush the roasted tomatoes and add to the pan with the onions and garlic.
  6. Stir often and cook down the tomato for about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring broth to a light boil.
  7. Once your broth is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, on the back burner. Season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, red pepper flake, and cumin to taste.
  8. Remove octopus from your ziplock bag, and season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Pour 1 tbsp of oil from the marinade into a hot cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  9. Sear octopus on both sides for about 3-5 minutes each—using a separate skillet to press the octopus will help get a harder char on the mollusk.
  10. Remove it from the cast iron and place it into the hot simmering tomato broth. Be sure to cover the tentacle completely in liquid. Cook on medium-low, covered, until done and tender, about 1 hour.
  11. Place Octopus in the middle of the plate and spoon hot broth over the meat. Garnish with a fennel strand and chopped parsley.

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