Wednesday, May 30

La Piovra with Sofrito

La Piovra or The Octopus was always one of my favourite tv series. Last time I was watching it twenty years ago. Now after so much time, it's still entertaining and exciting, but with less anxiety, because nowadays you can watch one whole tv series if you like in one day. 

So yes, today's post will be dedicated to the octopus. Not the Mafia's but the real one, and one natural flavour enhancer called Sofrito.

There are many interesting Mediterranean dishes with octopus but one I recently discovered, Spanish Mary Montana-"Surf and turf" is prepared with sofrito.

Sofrito/Soffritto is a cookery base and starting point for many great dishes. It is the secret flavour enhancer for many great Latin and Mediterranean dishes and it can be made with different ingredients. One is common, it has to be combination of herbs and finely chopped vegetables, slowly sautéed in oil until it starts to colour. At that point, a meat, fish or vegetables are added in. It can also be stored in a fridge for a future use in soups, side or main dishes. It's very versatile and depending on the ingredients, can be very aromatic.

Sofrito can also be a name for the main dish prepared with meat in some countries. On the Greek Island Corfu, the way of preparing steak is also called sofrito. 

Octopus and meatballs Mary Montana-Catalonian "Surf and turf"

Spanish sofrito**                      
2 lb octopus
prepared meatballs
white vine
1 bayleaf
3 large potatoes
1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Clean and wash the octopus and cut in small chunks or if you have a baby octopus in half. Prepare meatballs according to the recipe you like or you can use mine. Leave it aside.

Cook sofrito** and add cut and peeled potatoes and octopus with bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Cook for a 15 minutes and add white vine to cover the octopus and potatoes. Add salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for about one hour to hour and a half or until octopus and potatoes are soft. Add meatballs and cook for five more minutes.

**Spanish sofrito:
5-6 grated fresh tomatoes
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
extravirgin Spanish olive oil
1 tsp Spanish sweet paprika-pimenton
salt and pepper to taste

(bell pepper and celery can be added too if you make soups, if you like)

Finely chop the onion and garlic. Heat a large frying pan with a over medium heat. Pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Put the onions into the pan and sauté them until they are transparent, reducing the heat. Add the sweet pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Stir often, and when the onion is translucent add the tomatoes into the pan and mix well. Continue to cook for about 15-20 minutes.

TIP: Instead of octopus and meatballs, use chicken and lobster-great combination!

Seafood soup with sofrito**

1 cup sofrito**
4 cups fish stock (or clam juice)
1/2 lb clams
2 lb sea bass and other fish fillets (cut in chunks)
1/2 lb mussels
1 tomato (small diced)
1/2 cup pepper (yellow, small diced)
lime juice
1 tbsp cilantro
strip of bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup red bell pepper (chopped)
1 cup red onion (chopped)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp jalapeno (minced)
1 pinch saffron
7 oz sherry


In a deep saute pan combine sofrito with fish stock or clam juice on medium low heat whisking frequently until heated through. Add the clams, sea bass and shrimp. Cook for 1 minute. Add the mussels and cook until they open. Finish with tomatoes, yellow pepper, lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper, to taste.

In a sauce pot set on medium, cook the bacon in the olive oil for 30 seconds. Add red and yellow peppers, onions, and garlic, and saute until soft. Add the jalapeno, and saffron, cook for 1 minute. Add the sherry. Reduce by 1/4, cool and puree in a blender.

Pumpkin Sofrito soup

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
29 oz pumpkin puree
2 chipotle peppers
1 1/2 cups cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tbsps **sofrito

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until the flour becomes golden brown. Whisk in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, then add the chipotle peppers, cream, sofrito, salt, and paprika. Return to a simmer, then reduce heat to, and cook for 8 minutes until thickened and hot.

Cuban Ropa Vieja

2 1/2 lbs flank steak, cut in strips
5 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic or 5 cloves garlic,
minced1 large onion,
diced1 green pepper,
diced1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
6 oz Cuban sofrito* sauce

Heat 3 tbsp. oil in skillet on medium, brown meat on all sides. Remove from skillet, add remaining oil to skillet, stir in garlic, onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. Stir in black pepper, browned meat, tomato sauce, water and sofrito. Simmer until meat is tender and shreds easily, about 1 hour. Serve on top of rice.

*Cuban Sofrito:
21 cherry tomatoes, chopped        
2 green peppers, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
8 to 10 garlic cloves,chopped
1 or 2 bay leaves
touch of ground cumin
touch of dried oregano
3/4 cup Sherry or vine,
4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste (optional)

Sautee tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin and oregano in oil slowly until all vegetables are soft. Add Sherry or vine and let simmer. Add salt at the end of cooking untill it gets ticker.

Corfu sofrito

1.5 kg of round steak, thinly sliced.
4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 shot glass of vinegar.
1 shot glass of dry white wine.
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped (leaves and tender stems).
1 stalk of rosemary with leaves.
1 teaspoon of salt.
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

In a pan large enough to hold the strips of meat lengthwise, add a little oil and bring it to a high heat. Coat the strips of meat with a flour, and brown on both sides. Place in a large pot and set aside. In pan, add oil and bring to a medium heat. Saute the garlic and parsley. When the garlic starts to change colour, add the pepper, salt, wine, and vinegar. Stir well and pour over the meat. Add enough water to the pot to cover the meat. Shake the pot gently to mix the ingredients without stirring. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. At the point where it comes to a boil, add the rosemary, shake the pot again and serve.

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