Octopus MeatballsApr 23rd, 2012 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Appetizer, Featured, Frying, Greek, Herbs, Lent, Meze, Ouzo, Seafood
The first time I saw or heard of octopus meatballs were from Maria’s blog at Kali Orexi (BonAppeti. Maria is a Greek blogger resided in the NYC suburbs and she shares dishes she’s created or ones inspired by her ancestral homeland of the island of Kalymnos. For those not familiar with Greek geography, Kalymnos is located in the east Aegean, near Turkey and the closest major Greek island being Kos. Kalymnos is also famous for its sponge divers, traditional local cooking with includes Easter goat stuffed with rice, herbs and organ meat.
Before the Kalymnians celebrate their Easter feast, there has to be a fasting period and one of their unique dishes has to be these meatballs made of ground octopus meat. One simply grinds-up cooked octopus, adds onions, garlic, herbs and some binder to hold everything together. Many recipes call for using whole octopus but I’d rather use the tentacles whole for grilling.
Before any octopus can be enjoyed it must be cooked and it must be tender. My favourite way is to braise slowly in its own liquid. About half of the octopus’ weight is water and after you’ve braised it you’ll easily see that it has shrunk to about half. This braising process takes anywhere from 45 minutes for a small octopus to over two hours for the largest beasties. Once the octopus is fork-tender – it’s good to eat and then one may grill, pickle or enjoy the octopus in any one of the many ways I’ve enjoyed this delicacy from the sea.
The octopus consists of 8 tentacles and the head. All are edible but the head usually is not served – the chef or host/hostess get to eat this part. The head isn’t that attractive but it is every bit as edible as the esthetically appealing tentacles. Another reason why I chose to share this octopus meatballs recipe is because I learned that many simply discard or throw out the head…a sin to throw perfectly edible food!
My solution is to keep the head, grind up the meat in your food processor and use the mince to make these meatballs. If you’re not fasting you may use egg and breadcrumbs as binder, some scallions of sweated onions for flavour and the usual Greek herbs like oregano and mint. Dill would also work wonderfully here.
If you’re fasting, you can avoid egg and use more breadcrumbs or take my advice and use a medium-sized boiled potato that gets grated into the mixture with the octopus mince. The starches from potatoes make for a wonderful binder and your meatballs with have a hint of seafood flavour (I like the taste of seafood) and when fried, they remarkably taste like “meatballs”. Love octopus? You’ll love these octopus meatballs, a fantastic morsel that’s ideal for your meze table with Ouzo on ice. Kali Orexi!
Octopus Meatballs (χταποδοκεφτεδες)
(makes 15-20 small meatballs)
approx. 1 lb. of braised octopus (I used the head of a large octopus), roughly chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of red or white white wine
1 medium starchy potato, boiled OR 1 slice of stale bread
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
all-purpose flour for dredging
oil for frying
- Dice your onion and place in a small skillet with a splash of olive oil and sweat for about 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, stir in the minced garlic, wine and take off the heat and allow to cool. Parrallel to the onions, place your potato in a pot of salted water and boil until just fork-tender. Allow to cool and peel off the skin and grate the into a bowl and reserve.
- Place the cooled onion mixture in a food processor along with the octopus meat, oregano, mint, parsley and pulse into a homogenous mixture. If the mixture is too wet, add some breadcrumbs to help bind the mixture.
- Empty the contents into the bowl with the grated boiled potato, add a little sea salt and some fresh ground pepper and mix with your hands. Roll a small meatball and fry-off to to taste-test then adjust flavourings accordingly.
- Use your hands to roll the mixture into small meatballs then lightly dredge in all-purpose flour and place about 3/4 inch of oil in a deep pan and bring up to about 350F. Fry both sides of the meatballs until just golden (about a minute a side) and reserve on paper-lined platter.
- Serve warm or room temperature with a wedge of lemon and some Ouzo on ice.
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© 2012, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.