Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fighting the Sea Monster

If there's one virtue of long holiday weekends that I feel is overlooked, it's the movie marathons- namely, the bad movie marathons. Sure, all the tanned and toned must instinctively sun themselves by the pool like the cold-blooded reptiles that they are, but the subculture of pale and pasty Irish/German-rooted folk choose to seek solace from the sun's freckle-inducing wrath. So, we turn to movies.

On this Memorial Day, I got hooked on the movies of the Sci-Fi channel. I know: you're thinking, "but Joe, you seem far too cool and desirable to women to watch the Sci-Fi channel." ...


Anyway, the magnum opus of the day was a brilliant piece of film called Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, starring master thespians Deborah Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas. There's not much plot to explain outside of the title, but here's a screenshot to give you an idea of the pedigree of cinema we're discussing:

I frankly don't know how you San Franciscans drive across the Golden Gate bridge all willy-nilly with this sort of imminent danger looming below. Careless!

And- naturally- the other half of the equation in this film was an octopus of equal size and terror. Feeling the need to summon my own inner-giant shark, I sought out to dispatch the tentacled beast myself.

Octopus, although not incredibly prevalent on the American dinner table, is a popular and tasty critter in many Latin American, Asian, and Mediterranean cultures. I imagine the heaviest purchasing period in the States occurs when the Detroit Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup playoffs. However unusual as this food may be, most efforts I've tasted have been quite delicious (if not somewhat chewy).

Prevention methods for said chewiness vary greatly on the interweb: from overnight marination to boiling to using a meat mallet to repeatedly smacking the critter against the pavement, as is supposedly common in Greece. Having neither the time for marination or a meat mallet (or a desire to have my neighbors watch me abuse cephalopods in my driveway), I opted for the boiling method.

Once the critter was inspected for cleanliness (my local fishmonger thankfully took the initiative to remove the innards, ink sac, eyes, and beak), I dropped it into a pot of boiling, salted water with a squeezed lemon and its rind. I let it go for about 40 minutes, hoping tenderness ensued.

After removed from the water and allowed to drain, I placed my eight-legged pal into a marinade of olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I let it stew for about 30 minutes before throwing over hot coals to crisp up the edges:

The now flame-kissed beast was cut it up into bite-sized pieces (removing the still incredibly-chewy bits), drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a squeeze of grilled lemon. Overall, much was still a little rubbery, but the mild flavor (sort of like a cross between calamari and scallop) was very pleasant, and the smaller tentacles were tender and crispy.

Since only a fool would eat Mediterranean-style seafood without a bottle of wine, I cracked open a bottle of Assyrtiko from Santorini (a Greek island), graciously provided to me by wine PR pal Constance. She's always coming to the table with interesting wines from around the world (previously plying me with samples from Australia and Austria). Very cool. Maybe even cooler than a fictional battle between a giant shark and a monstrous octopus.

Brimming with confidence that a Greek delicacy like grilled octopus with lemon would fit the bill swimmingly with a Greek white wine, I was delighted that the Assyrtiko (a white wine grape native to Greece) proved to be a solid seafood match; very, very dry with mineral and lemon peel aromas, and it was fresh and clean. A little bitter on the finish (sort of like grapefruit peel), but a good complement to the octopus. With the mineral component so evident, I would probably pair this up with some oysters or shellfish in the future, yet the octopus had a mild enough flavor that- although not minerally- played nicely along the Assyrtiko's subtleness.

However, I feel like the chewiness of a giant prehistoric octopus might be too much for the wine to handle...and where would I get a pot that big? Furthermore, I can't even begin to say how inappropriate this would be with enormous shark filets. I saw that shark eat a Jumbo Jet, a U.S. Navy Destroyer, a Frigate, a section of the Golden Gate bridge, and a Nuclear Submarine. With all those metallic elements surely affecting the flavor of the meat, I think something with petrol aromas- like a Alsace or German Riesling- would suit such a meal more appropriately.

Come back tomorrow, when we'll be discussing wines to pair with roast sasquatch, fricasse of ghost, Loch Ness Monster short ribs, and Deborah Gibson's acting career stew.
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