08 July 2010

Auf Wiedersehen, Paul

For anyone following along with us on Twitter or Facebook or – gasp – real life over the last couple of weeks (though obviously not here, as we've not been cooking much thanks to jungle heat and a busted-ass kitchen), we've been rooting for Japan and Germany in the World Cup. This has nothing to do with any love for the old Axis – we laughed heartily when Italy's theatre troupe got booted. No, we just felt an affinity with a couple of young teams considered too inexperienced to do much of anything yet who somehow were putting on clinics against the established order.

That and the nicknames "Mannschaft" and "Blue Samurai" sound like fun toys.

At any rate, once Japan was out, we put all our emotional chips on Germany. We rallied with the handful of Germans in Paris at one of the very few German bars in town for every match, drinking litres of Paulaner, eating Currywurst and Bratwurst like it was going out of style, and cheering roaringly (yet in an ever so orderly and polite manner) for every goal. And there were a lot of them.

Then that slimy Paul the Psychic Octopus came along and picked Spain to beat Germany in the semi-finals. It turned out that that mother bitch of a mollusk was right, and we ended up leaving our local Bier und Bratwurst bar all heartbroken. Vowing to eat Paul, of course. We weren't the only ones with the idea, but none of our friends on the other side of the border have gloated about eating octopus today.

So in honor of our fallen second-favorite team, we have stepped up to the plate. We hereby present fellow fans of the Mannschaft a couple of octopus dishes we worked out tonight.

Parsley salad with octopus tentacles
Almost every western preparation of octopus sounds like the one proposed in the second article linked above: Grill it and garnish with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. It's good, but dammit, it reminds me too much of time spent rolling around naked, chugging wine and eating seafood on the beaches of... you guessed it... Spain. Hmph! What to do?

Before leaving the office this evening I called Alannah to let her know I'd be stopping by the Asian market to pick up some octopus. "I need flat-leaf parsley. And a lemon. Must. Have."

I didn't tell her what I was up to, but I was inspired by Fergus Henderson's parsley salad (which he serves with his signature roasted marrow bones). We tossed some flat-leaf parsley and finely sliced onion with salt, lemon juice and olive oil, and topped the salad with bite-sized pieces of octopus tentacle pan-grilled with the tried and true olive oil, lemon juice, and finely chopped garlic. A little Spanish. A little English. Simple. Delicious. Vindictive.

And delightfully refreshing with a pint of lager on a ridiculously hot, muggy summer night, if you're looking for the right beverage.

Octopus Schnitzel over squid ink Spätzle.
Tell your German friends it's "Kaviar"
The second dish isn't quite as fit for a mosquito-ridden Parisian summer, but we simply had to do right by Deutschland. I basically pounded a "filet" of octopus tentacle with the rough side of a meat tenderizer, dredged it through an egg, floured it and fried it. There: Octopus Schnitzel. Throw a squeeze of lemon on it and you're good to go.

Alannah seriously stepped things up. She's good with Späetzle, a German egg pasta made with an equal amount of flour and egg, and enough milk to make it viscous and goopy (but not liquidy). The easiest recipe calls for two eggs, 1 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of milk. This makes more than enough for two people. We added a pinch of salt but skipped the usual nutmeg for a different magic ingredient: Squid ink – about a tablespoon of it. (Octopus ink would've been more appropriate, but where the hell do you get that? And does it taste the same? Let us know.)

To cook Spätzle (blackened by squid-ink or not), you squeeze your viscous goo through the holes of a strainer into a pot of salted hot water. Let the Spätzle cook for a few minutes (if they're floating, they're done) and pull out with a slotted spoon into an oiled or buttered bowl. This keeps them from sticking. Before serving, toss with butter or olive oil. (I broke the rules and used both, without telling Alannah.)

The end result was even better than anticipated. While an octopus Schnitzel may sound 10 shades of wrong, it came out remarkably light and paired really well with the slightly squid-y Späezle.

Germany may be known more for beer, precision engineering, and Scheiße videos than for seafood, but by applying German technique to cephalopods, the results are pretty damn good.

So there you have it. It may not be Paul the Psychic Octopus himself, but we nailed one of his cousins good n' hard.


  1. nice one. mmm...spaezle.

    Where's the German bars in town?

  2. Conveniently, I have a Yelp list on those... No cocktails, though :(