I stopped by our Japanese grocery store this weekend, especially since we were running out of sushi vinegar 寿司酢 (an important item for any household especially ours). I bought a few other items which included boiled octopus legs ゆでだこの足. I served them with my usual “karashi sumiso” 芥子酢味噌 that evening with cold sake. The next evening I wanted to serve what was left but in a different way. The variation I came up with is the subject of the current post. Besides, my wife wanted to start the evening with a glass of red wine rather than sake. So, I came up with this rendition of octopus carpaccio. Although I posted a similar dish before, there are enough differences to warrant another post (I am a bit desperate for new posts at this point). Since I also bought cod roe or “tarako” たらこ and “salmon roe” いくら as well, I incorporated these into the dish as well. In the picture below, the green is cucumber slices, the red and white slivers are red radish, thinly sliced and then cut into thin julienne.
My wife asked why I always slice octopus in a wavy fashion (check out how a pro will do it with the visual aid here). This wavy cut is called “sazanami-giri” さざなみ切り(“sazanami” is Japanese for the small ripply waves on the surface of otherwise calm waters). I told my wife this is the traditional way of slicing octopus and abalone or “awabi” アワビ because the flesh of these creatures is firm. If the surface was cut smoothly the soy sauce would just run off. The ripples help hold the sauce on much like the grooves in pasta help hold on the tomato sauce.
As usual, I started with olive oil (I used this excellent Spanish olive oil for this) and syrupy aged balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on the bottom.
I made the base layer with very thinly sliced Vidalia onion (I used a Japanese “Benriner” mandoline). I then added cucumber slices around the perimeter and covered the center with thinly sliced octopus. I removed the tarako roe from its membrane sac (I used about 1/3). I scattered the tarako and ikura on the octopus and garnished it with thin julienne of red radish. I finished with drizzles of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We had this with Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012, this is a very reliable California Cab and got 90 from Wine Advocate. This winery was bought out by the Gallo some years ago but appears to be maintaining their quality. It may not be a spectacular wine but it has all the good qualities of a Napa cab. One should be careful when buying this brand, however, since they make three different versions with near-identical labels but different prices; they are from Napa, Alexander and Sonoma valleys. We tried all three in different vintages but we liked the Napa version best. This wine went rather well with the carpaccio, although the addition of fish roe resulted in a somewhat less than perfect match for red wine. The roe were in small enough amounts so as not to be objectionable and they did add a nice saltiness. The balsamic vinegar was more sweet than vinegary and did not compete with this red. The olive oil was again great, adding nice fruity, grassy tastes with a peppery finish. The octopus itself had a very neutral flavor (an euphemism for not much taste) but added great texture. We had the octopus slices with layers of the onion, cucumber which made it very nice. I made one more dish which we had with this red wine before changing to cold sake with tuna tartar (both dishes are subjects of future posts).