8 Legged Friend: The Octopus

One of the questions we that guests ask us at the most at the Harvest Vine is, “When are you guys going to get Galician Octopus back?” There was a time when my chef would bring in octopus in that were imported from the waters of Galicia. I have never had anything as exquisite as Galician Octopus in my life. I still remember the first time I experienced eating this delicate, most tender, and flavor-packing piece of octopus. It was served perfectly as a pintxo in the Pulpo a la Gallega style at the Harvest Vine’s sister restaurant, Txori. Its a dish where simplicity really shines. All the pintxo consisted of was a slice of the ever-so tender octopus tentacle with a sliced steamed red potato. It was then finished off with some smoky pimenton, very coarse sea salt, and then drenched in a shower of the finest Arbequinia olive oil we had in house. It was the ‘Perfect Bite’. I’ve never had octopus with such luxurious and silky texture as Galician octopus.

Pulpo at Txori Bar.

Sadly, the days of getting Galacian Octopus is long gone as it is a very expensive product to import in. At the time, Txori was open, so it was easy to share the large amount of imported octopus between the two restaurants. But there has been some rumors floating around the restaurant that we actually might be thinking about getting some in so let’s cross our fingers!

Luckily, we are still able to get in some beautiful octopus and baby octopus from Atlantic waters that are just as delectable and tasty! There are so many ways that we can utilize the octopus and all of its part.We serve the octopus in many different variations from the classic Pulpo a la Gallega to using it in a alioli-bathed salad with white beans and chorizo. But what it all comes down to is how the octopus is cooked to make it into the most tender piece of meat ever!

Me and the 8 legged beast!

Cooking octopus is as easy as just putting it in a pot of boiling water and letting it simmer for hours until its tender. But there are a bunch of little things that we do to help make sure that our pulpo comes out as tender as it can get. One of the many myths of cooking octopus is the infamous red-wine cork in the water pot. I have heard from many different people as of why we put the cork in the pot. One reason why is that the tannins from the left over wine on the bottom of the cork helps break down the octopus. I have also heard that its actually the type of wood the cork is made from that helps with tenderizing of the octopus. All I know is that we throw it in and it works like magic!

Only one is needed!

We also use a 3 stage blanching process before we actually leave the octopus in the pot of water to simmer away. So what we do is we bring a pot of water with the wine cork to a boil and then we drop in the octopus. Of course the temperature of the water drops when we throw in the octopus so we then wait for it to come up back to a boil, then we remove the octopus. We then repeat this process 2 more times and on the last time, we leave the octopus in to simmer until its tender!

Our friend after the second time being dunked in hot water.

The way we can tell the octopus is done is by carefully pulling two tenticals away from each other and seeing if the connecting skin between the two legs carefully tear away from each other. It is very easy to over cook octopus, so you got to make sure you check it regularly after the first couple of hours. We then chill it and then portion the octopus for service!

Sectioned Octopus!

From here we are able to portion it any way want from cutting the tentacles into little medallions or to leaving them in larger pieces so they will hold up on the grill. The octopus head is actually one of the meatiest part of the animal so we save them up and then dice them up to use up in a salad for the menu or even for our pintxo, or amuse bouche.

At the Vine right now, we have the grilled pulpo on the menu. We dress the grilled tentacle with a nice marinade of pimenton, parsley, and olive oil and then serve it atop a smooth puree of chickpeas. It’s has the nice flavors of the traditional Pulpo a la Gallega but has that different touch with the nutty flavor and textures of the garbanzo puree.

My Sous Chef's, Allyss, beautiful plate of grilled octopus!



Beef Tongue: The Better Roast Beef

If there is one thing that I try to get guests to try at The Harvest Vine, it would have to be the Beef Tongue. Beef Tongue is just one of those dishes that people seem to be so scared off because of what it is…. a tongue of a cow.  Most of the people who are disgusted with beef tongue usually explains to me that they actually have had it before, usually made by their parents or grandparents, but it was just never good. Well thanks moms, dads, grand mothers and grand fathers. You have ruined something so great to these people and its time for a redemption…

Say Ahhhhhh!

It might not sound like the most appetizing thing to eat, let alone look like something that a human should ever have to put into their mouth, but I feel that is a completely versatile piece of meat. It’s like the better roast beef. When you thinly slice it, it’s perfectly good served cold.  It has the melt in your mouth texture that resembles the texture of a perfect slice of roast beef along with a great red wine flavor and saltiness that it absorbs in the brining process. You can the tongue into thicker pieces and sear each side of of the slice until its peferctly crispy and caramelized and still retain that great texture that the tongue has.

This is the process that a beef tongue undergoes until it reaches ultimate (and very edible) tastiness.

We brine the tongue(s) in a red wine brine with salt, sugar, aromatics, mirepoix, and of course, red wine for atleast 3-4 days. Brining aids with the flavor and texture of the tongues outcome.

Tongue In Brine!

Then we strain the mirepoix and aromatics then discard the brining liquid. We caramelize the mirepoix in hot pans and then add tomato paste and choricer paste then cook it down. Deglaze the pan with red wine and then add everything to the beef tongue and cover with beef stock/water with garlic cloves and herbs.

Tongue ready to be braised!

Braise at 325F for 4-5 hours with turning the tongue half way through until you can poke a knife or skewer through the tongue with no resistance. Then pull out tongue from liquid and let sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle. Strain the braising liquid from the mirepoix and etc and save for later use.

Tongues ready to be pulled out.

Once cool enough to handle but still warm, carefully pull off the skin from the meat from the tongue. You can do this while the tongue is cool, but it is much easier when the tongue is still warm. It should come off pretty easy but to take off skin with out ripping meat off, just carefully maneuver your finger between the skin and the meat, gently separating the two from each other. Otherwise, just go a head and rip that skin off!

The Naked Tongue

Once the skin is off, the tongue is all ready to use! Right now, our work has the tongue on the menu for Seattle Restaurant Week as a salad. The tongue is chilled then thinly sliced and then covered  with alioli (garlic mayonnaise), sliced pippara peppers, sea salt, and a really nice arbequinia olive oil. It’s a really simple salad that really lets the flavor of the beef tongue shine. The pipparas bring a nice acidic kick to the dish and then the alioli brings it all together to really balance out all of the richness of the tongue and the acidity from the pipparas.

Lengua de Vaca

Lengua de Vaca

We also have it on the brunch menu as a bocadillo (a small sandwhich in Spain) where we warm up the sliced tongue and then serve it with braising liquid as a dipping caldo (think like a French Dip, but rather a ‘Basque Dip’). There was also a request for a tongue dish so I made a dish with panaderas potatoes, seared tongue, 2 poached eggs, alioli, and demi. It turned out to be a great dish and the customer even said it should be put on the menu ASAP. We’ll see about that! =]

Beef tongue with Panaderas potatoes and Poached eggs.

This was a great post to me because I love trying to get people to try to be more adventurous and to be not so afraid of food like this especially when they are something as delicious as tongue!