Vallarta scavenger hunt: Baby Octopus with Duck Sausage in Tomato Sauce

Vallarta Bounty I recently started volunteering at the Van Nuys courthouse as a mediator.  Van Nuys is the next suburb over from where I was born and grew up, in the San Fernando Valley.  My first experience with the Van Nuys courthouse was in high school when I and five of my friends very nearly got expelled after being caught for ditching our  internship there.  I haven’t always been an angel.

On my way home from court the other day I spotted a Vallarta market and I cannot resist an ethnic market.  I stopped in for some carne asada and came out with bags of dried chili peppers, tamarindo, guavas, jamaica, piloncillo, spices, saladitos (an old favorite), cheap dried beans, and a surprise find: baby octopus (previously frozen but that’s the way you’ll usually find it).  And unlike shopping at my love it/hate it Whole Foods, this octopus set me back a whopping $4.99.

Baby octopus I’ve been pseudo obsessed with octopus since falling all over myself after ordering it twice at different small plate restaurants: first at the Basque focused eatery called Racion, which has quickly become my new favorite Pasadena restaurant; and second at the much hyped (but well-deserved) Voltaggio haunt ink.  Unlike your typical chewy octopus sushi, the octopus I had at these restaurants were tender, juicy, and really really tasty.

Inspired more by the flavors of the dish I had at Racion, and the duck sausage from Harmony Farms that I needed to use up in my fridge, this is what I came up with: baby octopus with duck sausage in a tomato wine sauce, served over fregola sarda (toasted) pasta with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe.  And if I can brag for a quick sec, this was one of the best pasta type dishes I’ve ever concocted.

Next time you spot octopus at your local Vallarta, don’t be afraid of it.  The dish I prepared was no more trouble than making a decent tomato sauce.  And cooking and eating octopus for dinner really makes you feel daring and exotic, if just for an hour. baby octopus with duck sausage

Braised baby octopus with duck sausage in tomato sauce

Serves 2
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 15 minutes
Meal type Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 1lb baby octopus (Large octopus also works but you may need to cook longer)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 14oz can italian crushed or diced tomatoes (San Marzano preferred or another high quality canned tomato, fresh works too if in season)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup italian parsley (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (fresh, or 1-2 tsp dried)

Optional

  • 1/2lb duck sausage (or any narrow diameter hard salami)
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 handful canned black olives
  • parmesan cheese (fresh, grated)

Note

Inspired by and adapted from this recipe, which originates from Puglia in Southern Italy.  I added the black olives and sausage to give it a little more Italian flair and flavor.  Sausage will add some saltiness to your sauce, so go light on the salt and adjust as needed after the sauce reduces and comes together.

Directions

1.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Toss in the octopus, return to boil. Boil 2 minutes to remove impurites. Then remove from water and plunge in ice bath. Discard water. If heads are still attached, at this point you can cut them off and discard them, or you can clean everything out inside and use the heads, discarding the inner bits. Chop into large chunks.
Octopus (1 of 1)-2
2. Heat dutch oven or medium pot and add olive oil to coat. Saute octopus for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes more, don't let garlic burn.
3. Deglaze with wine and bring to simmer, reduce wine until 2/3 evaporated. Add tomatoes, chili flakes, honey, and a teaspoon of salt.
4. Bring to simmer and add oregano. Slice sausage thinly on the bias (diagonal) and add to pot.
5. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Add capers, olives, and most of your parsley (saving a little for garnish).
6. Taste octopus to see if tender (smaller baby octopus might be tender at this point). If still chewy, cover pot again and keep simmering until tender, up to 45 minutes, checking for tenderness every 10 minutes.
7.
When tender, remove lid and let sauce reduce and thicken if necessary. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve over Fregola Sarda pasta or any other desired pasta. Garnish with remaining parsley and grated parmesan if desired.
Octopus (4 of 4)

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