As it is often said, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. As was the case tonight.
This week was Brandan’s turn in the kitchen. Brandan is a foodie-in-training, with an intense desire to explore unique and adventurous foods – the more “bizarre” in his mind, the more he wants to try it! He chose Mexico as his country; one of my favorite cuisines. We started to discuss what he wished to make. Immediately, he exclaims “Octopus!” I knew octopus was consumed in Mexico; I just had to dig and find a suitable recipe. Luckily for me, Rick Bayless and his wonderful book Mexico – One Plate at a Time provided great inspiration. A recipe on page 249 – Seared Fish Fillets in Escabeche – had a variation that called for octopus. Brandan wished to grill the octopus, however. Not to worry, I knew that Peter at Kalofagas.ca posted a Greek grilled octopus recipe a while back that intrigued me. So Brandan and I set off to grill octopus and shrimp, and serve it with escabeche, Mexican white rice (also courtesy of Rick Bayless) and fried plantains.
Unfortunately, as much as both Brandan and I were excited about the idea of octopus, (Brandan had never tried octopus; I only ate it a time or two at a sushi restaurant) the end result was far from exciting. In fact, the dish was a big FAIL. I am unsure if it was as a result of my lack of knowledge on how to prepare octopus (I braised the octopus in its own liquid for about 50 minutes, until fork-tender, and then grilled it), or if our family just plain doesn’t like grilled octopus, but we ended up tossing most of the dish. I don’t blame Peter or Rick Bayless, of course, it’s likely my improvisation just came back to bite me on this one! (And on a side note, the escabeche portion of the dish was tasty.)
One part of the dish did shine, however. The fried plantains, which I’ve prepared numerous times, were delicious. Of course, fried plantains hardly need a recipe. Basically, you place about 2 tablespoons of oil in a hot pan (I used my trusty cast iron skillet), and once you bring it to medium-high heat, add 2-3 peeled and sliced plantains in a single layer. Allow to cook without moving for a minute or two, or until a golden crust forms on the plantain. Flip over and fry the other side of the plantain slices for 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with a touch of salt, or if you really want to get fancy, sprinkle with some cotija cheese. That’s it. They are wonderfully crisp on the exterior, with a creamy-sweet interior. Quite addictive.
All in all, Brandan and I did learn something through our experience with the failed octopus dish. It never hurts to try something new, and it’s perfectly okay if it doesn’t turn out. We’re not discouraged, we’ll just try something new again next time!