It isn’t salami! It’s paper-thin OCTOPUS.
It’s Alessandro Pirozzi’s Octopus Carpaccio. And it’s divine.
It starts off looking like this …..
And ends up looking like this … topped with lemon extra-virgin olive oil, baby arugula and caper berries. Some crisp croutons. A little fresh lemon juice squeezed from a grilled lemon half. Roasted red bell pepper. Delicious.
See how Alessandro Pirozzi, Executive Chef-Owner of Alessa (restaurants in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach) works his magic. He turns a medium-size octopus into a cylindrical terrine, then cuts it paper-thin. Oh mama, it’s ambrosial.
You can use a fancy-schmancy cylindrical mold, it you like.
Practical Pirozzi uses a cleaned-up plastic large-side soda pop bottle. He cuts off the top leaving a cylinder that is about 8 inches high, leaving the bottom intact except for a couple of itty bitty holes that he punches with the tip of a knife.
Then he uses scissors to cut 1-inch wide strips about 4 inches deep from the open end towards bottom what was a bottle. Those strips are folded over to encase the octopus at the bottom. BUT, a video is worth 100,000 words. You just gotta’ see it.
How did the chef come up with such a device? His mother Margharita Pirozzi taught him!
1 (3- to 5-pound) octopus
1 red onion, peeled, quartered
1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces
2 celery stalks, each cut into 3 pieces
1 medium fennel bulb, cut into lengthwise quarters
1 lemon, zest removed with vegetable peeler in wide strips, and lemon quartered
1 bottle dry red wine
1 gallon water
10 unpeeled garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 gelatin sheets
Garnish: strips of roasted red bell pepper, lemon extra-virgin olive oil, croutons, caper berries, lemon juice from a grilled lemon (cut in half and place cut-side on hot grill – grill until grill marks form), baby arugula
Cook’s notes: Alessandro uses focaccia to make his crispy croutons.
1. In a large soup pot, combine octopus with onion, carrot, celery, fennel, lemon zest, quartered lemon, wine, water, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until octopus is tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove octopus from stock and set aside until cool enough to handle.
2. Reduce stock by 3/4 in volume, boiling it on high heat. Cut tentacles into large pieces and maneuver them into cylindrical mold(s) (see story and oh-so-groovy video). Remove reduced stock from heat; strain through sieve lined with cheesecloth and set aside to cool to warm. Discard debris in strainer. Bloom the gelatin sheets: Place gelatin in cold water to cover until fully hydrated (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove gelatin from water and gently wring out water. Add it to warm reduced stock and dissolve it; cool to room temperature.
3. Place molds upright in pan. Pour enough of the stock-gelatin mixture into mold(s) to fill in gaps. Use a heavy weight (such as large can) to compress; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
4. Cut into the thinnest slices possible using a slicer or sharp knife. Arrange on plates overlapping slightly. Garnish with strips of roasted red bell pepper, lemon extra-virgin olive oil, croutons, caper berries, lemon juice from a grilled lemon (cut in half and place cut-side on hot grill – grill until grill marks form), baby arugula.
Source: Alessandro Pirozzi, Alessa Restaurants in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach
Or a little arugula-parsley infused olive oil: To make it, in a blender combine 1/2 bunch Italian parsley and an equal amount of baby arugula with 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Whirl until pureed; allow it to rest 3 to 4 hours. Strain and place in squeeze bottle.