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Octopus Aguachile

If you like ceviche, you are going to love aguachile. 

A true aguachile (chile water) from the Sinaloa region of Mexico, at it's most basic, is made by pouring a spicy puree of chiles and water over raw shrimp, some red onion, radish and cucumber. From there, people add cilantro, lime juice and more but, unlike ceviche, you are going to eat it when the shrimp are still pretty raw - sort of like a spicy, Mexican shrimp sashimi. This requires ridiculously fresh, sushi grade seafood and since that is not always available to us, I like to use cooked seafood (or, you can marinate the raw shrimp/fish in lime juice for an hour or so in advance as you would for a traditional ceviche before adding the aguachile for serving). If you don't like octopus, you can substitute any seafood you like - if you don't want to eat it raw, cook it lightly beforehand. I am not sure I would use $$$ sushi grade tuna, for example, only because its so expensive and this sauce is very strong in flavour and when I am eating really high quality, sushi grade fish, I want to taste the fish but some shrimp, any nice, white fish that you would use in ceviche would work beautifully.

 My most recent Pop Up featured a Peruvian inspired dinner and although aguachile is NOT Peruvian at all, I played with the ingredients and added some huacatay (a pungent black mint sauce)which is very, very Peruvian and served this dish to thunderous applause. I have made this recipe both with and without the huacatay and it's delicious either way, so don't worry if you can't find it. Just leave it out.

no need to get overly fancy but it's great just on it's own, in a bowl

I played with different ways of serving this dish, but that will be up to you. I tried serving it on a disk of sous vide potato that I cooked in a bit of the octopus juice, an oven roasted disk of roasted sweet potato and alone, in a bowl. It was really nice with a bit of grilled corn scattered over the top but that isn't a must so use your imagination. The bottom line is that what I do to serve it to a paying customer is not always the way I serve it at home.

As far as the octopus goes, I cooked it sous vide and it was soooo easy and it came out tender and lovely but if you don't have a sous vide, you can either buy cooked octopus or you can cook it in a pot of lightly salted, barely simmering water for between 1 to 2 hours but I have not had consistent luck with that, hence the sous vide. There is a great recipe on Serious Eats that swears by using a pressure cooker, so you might want to check that out if you have one of those but no sous vide.

Octopus Aguachile

serves about 6 appetizer portions

approx 1 lbs octopus tentacles
pinch kosher salt
2-3 tbls of olive oil

To cook the octopus, defrost it in the fridge overnight and then if it's still a bit frozen in the morning, run it under cold water until it is completely thawed.

Heat a water bath to 77C/171F

Remove the head of the octopus and then cut through the top of the tentacles to separate them into individual tentacles. Bag up the tentacles so that they don't overlap and add a tablespoon or so into each back with a pinch of kosher salt and vacuum seal the bags. It's not a bad idea to throw a stainless steel butter knife in the bottom of the bag to help weigh it down.

Cook the octopus for 5 hours, remove and either cool immediately in an ice bath and leave in the fridge until you are ready to use or remove immediately, dry them off, toss them with a drizzle of olive oil. If you have more than 1 lb, you can throw the vacuumed packs of cooked octopus right into the freezer for another day.

It's your choices to broil them, sear them in a hot pan with some olive oil, use a blow torch on them or throw them on to a really hot grill just to char them.

Slice the octopus tentacles into thin slices and set aside.

Aguachile Sauce:

2 serrano chilis, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tomatillo, halved
113 g (4 oz) chopped cucumber
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 tbls fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 tsp huatacay sauce, optional
1 tbls olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
juice of 2 limes

preheat the broiler and throw the chilis and the tomatillos (cut side down) under there and broil until you see brown spots on the skins.

Put everything in a food processor or blender and puree until really smooth.

to assemble finished dish:

1 lb sliced octopus
1 batch aguachile sauce
2 baby cucumbers or 1 english cucumber
3 or 4 radishes
handful of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onion

You have choices:
You can slice the cucumber and radish into really thin disks and toss with the octopus along with the red onion OR you can diced the cucumber, radish and 3/4 of the onion into a fine dice and then, after tossing that with the octopus, you can throw the remaining, sliced red onion on top.

Either way, toss the octopus, cucumber, radish and half the cilantro and onion with half the aguachile sauce. Heap onto plates or in shallow bowls or on one long platter and then pour the remaining sauce all around the seafood mixture so it's kind of swimming in it. Garnish with the remaining red onion and cilantro

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