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Braised Octopus with Creamy Polenta and Charred Vegetables

I'm bringing sexy back. Yup. Is it just me, or is there something wildly sexy looking about this plate? Sometimes food just looks incredible and it puts me in a place of confusion... Do I stare at it admiringly with doe eyes? Or do I eat it, savoring its magnificent flavor?

I made this dish, with friends, as a homage to my Food Network Star dish. We attempted to film a video for it. But there was wine involved and I am pretty sure we just drank and chatted while I cooked. At some point, I realized this and decided to take a few stills of Porsche and Nichole enjoying my food. Since, well, the video is probably largely unusable.

IF you watched the show, you can note that I changed a few things in the dish. Bobby and Giada loved my squid, saying I handled it perfectly. But they were a bit confused about some of my pairings. Ultimately I won the challenge, along with the ever impressive Christian.

As such, there are some alterations in the dish I share with you today. I shaved my potatoes and carrots and added some sauteed greens as well.

Earlier that week my kids and I had gone to visit Keiki and Plow; a small farm where you can pick some herbs/veggies and gather fresh eggs from chickens. The kids absolutely loved it! And we gathered some pretty beautiful produce, to include dinosaur kale and swiss chard.

So I decided to incorporate these elements into my dish as well. After all, part of growing as a chef is updating and elevating. No? Yes!

Octopus is one of my very, very favorites. If it is on a menu at a restaurant, I am ordering it. Let's look back to my first dish this year On Food Network Star. It was a braised octopus. "Of course" I had to turn it into a taco because the challenge was to make your dish a park friendly item. I complied, it and looked a bit like this...

I flash back to this because I kept comparing the octopus to calamari/squid (which is pictured above). And I bring this up, because if you are wary of octopus, it is largely like a big piece of calamari. This was the first time my friend Porsche had ever tried octopus, and she loved it. Just take the plunge people. Its not scary. It is supremely delicious.

When done right (which isn't that difficult), octopus is super tender and packed with flavor.

What I have done in this dish is braised it in red wine, herbs and aromatics; and then finished it off with a fresh dose of herbs and spices and charred it in a grill pan. It is cooked perfectly tender and filled with so many depths of flavor. And quite frankly, you're going to look like a super star chef if you serve this to your friends.

I have even taken care of the pairings for you. A salty and creamy polenta, topped with a zesty lemon yogurt sauce. On top of that are savory carrots, greens and shaved Parmesan. Then last but not least... some mother fing ocotpus.

Lets get started shall we? First you will need a camera crew, four other nationally recognized chefs to compete against, Bobby, Giada, Casey Webb, a giant shark tank and a giant professional outdoor kitchen.

Don't have all of that? Okay, lets downsize and work with what real people have in their home and/or can find at their grocer.

Starting with the star....

(Not me)

For the Octopus:

6-9 lbs small octopus (can be larger, but the thicker the tentacles, the longer the cooker time)

(for the braising liquid)

1/2 a bottle dry red wine

1 cups broth/stock (vegetable, chicken, seafood)

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

6-9 cloves of garlic

1 yellow onion

handful of herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary...)

1 tsp rsalt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

(for the char)

cooked octopus tentacles

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1/2 a shallot, finely minced

1-2 tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

1 lemon

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; beginning with the vegetables (coarsely chopped), herbs ans seasoning. Then top with the octopus and pour the liquids in as well.

2. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce, cooking for 60 minutes covered on a low heat. If you have a larger octopus with thicker tentacles, then increase the cooking time.

3. When the octopus is cooked, it should be firm, but tender, and the tentacles should be curled.

4. Remove from the liquid and pat dry.

5. The whole octopus (if cleaned already by your grocer) is edible. But for plating purposes, the tentacles have the best texture as well as the best aesthetic appeal. So cut them off (if desired) as close to the body as possible.


Now we are charring the octopus. While your octopus is in the braising liquid, it would be a good time to cook your other ingredients, which we will get to below.

6. In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, shallot, olive oils, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

7. Gently toss the cooked octopus in this mixture.

8. Get a grill pan piping hot.

9. Once the octopus is evenly coated, place it on the hot grill pan, searing on each side till chart marks appear (2-3 minutes per side).

10. Finish with fresh squeezed lemon.

For the Rainbow Carrots and Potatoes

1 small bag mixed colored small potatoes

8-10 petite rainbow carrots

large handful of thyme

5-6 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 shallot, finely minced

2-3 tbsp olie oil

1-2 tsp salt

1-2 tsp black pepper

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

1. In a large bowl, toss thinly sliced carrots and potatoes (1/4" to 1/2" thick) in with the olive oil and spices.

2. On a silicone baking mat, lay down a bed of herbs, and top with the dressed potato/carrot mixture.

3. Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes or until browning and crisp. Finish with more salt if desired.

4. Set aside.

For the Creamy Polenta:

2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, seafood)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup polenta

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. In a large pot, bring broth to a boil and slowly whisk in the polenta until well blended.

2. Melt in the butter, stirring until incorporated.

3. Add the heavy whipping cream, salt and pepper and continue to mix.

4. Melt in the fresh grated Parmesan and remove from heat.

For the Zest Yogurt Sauce (were almost there guys):

1 cup plain yogurt

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup feta

1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

For the Pan Charred Greens:

3-4 leaves of dinosaur kale

1 small bushel of swiss chard

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tbsp olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves finely minced

1. In a saute pan, heat up olive oil and brown the garlic (3-4 minutes on medium heat).

2. Add coarsely chopped greens and season to taste with the salt, red pepper flakes and lemon juice (2-3 minutes on high heat) until wilted.

We are finally to plating!!!

Listen, I know there is a lot going on here, but it is realllllly good. And all of the flavors compliment each other well. If you wanted to eliminate anything, you could probably forgo the potatoes as we already have starch from the polenta. But they add a great textural element to the dish.

1. Begin plating with a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the creamy polenta.

2. Add a dollop or drizzle of the zesty yogurt sauce.

3. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the potatoes/carrots.

4. Add 1/4 cup greens.

5. Add 5-6 octopus tentacles.

6. Top with shaved Parmesan, finishing oil and more red pepper flakes if desired.

And I also have a salad version...

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