Monday, December 11, 2006
The almighty Kraken
You've all heard the stories about whole fleets of whaling ships taken down by the mythological Kraken - a tentacle-wielding Neptunian monster who swallows ships whole, and eats young sailors like mere bar nuts? No? Go read some books. Yes? Well you know what I had on my hands. I came face to face with own Kraken last week. God knows what he was doing in my kitchen, but I managed to tame the bastard with red wine, fish stock and some shallots.
I did originally intend him for the silly season, but my freezer went on the blink and I had no choice but to cook him a la moment. First, I needed a sharp sword to slice him up.
The nice chaps at Ocean Fresh (Park Slope) removed eyes, ink sac, beak and those nasty bits. They even put Kraken to a deep sleep in their massive freezer, the sharp growing ice crystals tenderising the succulent flesh. (I hear that putting a wine cork into your pot while cooking Kraken helps the process - either that or spend a few hours flailing the bugger against a rock, while Sirens sing to you). Next step is to sear and dehydrate. There does seems to be a lot of the Kraken before I lower him into a hot Dutch oven, then I hear hissing and a crackle and within a few seconds, the pot is filled with octo-juice and some vastly shrunken pieces of cephalopod. They must dissolve, I deduce. I maintained the high heat until the OJ had vanished and the Kraken turned an appetizing pink colour.
Next comes a slug of olive oil, a handful of roughly chopped shallots. 2 crushed garlic cloves, about a cup of red wine, some rather cheerful-looking fish stock (half cup), a cup of tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes and some herbs, whatever you have (I had thyme, some bay leaves, a bit of parsley). I stewed for about an hour, maybe thirty minutes longer, I just kept testing.
I reckon it should have the al-dente quality of just-cooked pasta, but of course it's a very personal thing. I did deviate somewhat from the traditional Greek recipe, some cooks even add orange juice. Just keep it really simple....the Kraken has a delicate flavour which you'll need to preserve as best you can. We ate Kraken with some bread and a green salad. We enjoyed it hugely, and I was surprised at the missus to be honest. She's not normally one for scoffing strange creatures, but she couldn't get enough of this beasty. She didn't even stop eating to say "Thanks, Doll" or wipe the great swaithes of braising sauce from her face. Bless.