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Recipe Fri Jan 23 2009

Smoked Octopus Penne with Watercress and Yuzu

Penne with Smoked Octopus and WatercressThis is a recipe that popped into existence on a recent weeknight, when I came home ravenous. I had to eat right away; otherwise, I wasn't sure how long I would be able to restrain myself from gnawing on our cat's head. (Not really, but I was pretty hungry.)

I (literally) tore up the watercress in my bare hands and opened a tin of smoked octopus while the penne happily boiled away in salted water. Once the pasta was done, I drained them, then tossed in the watercress and octopus. The idea was to let the watercress wilt a little, still preserving some crunchyness, with the heat of the pasta; it worked quite nicely. For seasoning, I sprinkled the whole thing with yuzu juice, plenty of fine garlic powder, olive oil and a pinch of salt. It was pretty good--the smokyness of the octopus, refreshing spicy tang from the watercress, and the yuzu juice blended together quite nicely--but it lacked depth.

Then an idea occurred to me. I rummaged in the fridge, pulled out an old bottle of Japanese Worcestershire sauce (which is gooier and quite a bit sweeter than the "real" stuff, depending on the brand), and drizzled it into the bowl of penne. It did the trick. The Worcestershire sauce gave the whole assemblage a sweet, slightly meaty body. When I put the plates on the table, the pasta disappeared in a matter of minutes. Granted, we were hungry, but I think it'd taste as good even when we aren't as ravenous.

If you have yuzu juie handy (or, even better yet, the fruit itself), by all means use it; if you don't, you can substitute with lemon. If you are using real Worcestershire sauce, which tends to be more acidic and less sweet than the Japanese one I used, orange juice might work better than lemon, since it can add the sweetness. And here is the (rather short and redundant) recipe--makes 2.

2 cups penne pasta
a generous pinch of salt (for boiling the pasta)
1 tin smoked octopus
1/2 bunch (or more) watercress
2 teaspoon yuzu juice
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic
a small pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water.
2. While the pasta is boiling, tear up the watercress. Drain the smoked octopus, and cut larger pieces to bite-sized chunks (if necessary).
3. When the pasta is al dente, drain, and place in a bowl. Throw in the watercress, octopus and all the seasoning. Toss lightly, check for seasoning and serve.


Jen G / January 23, 2009 3:31 PM

Where do you buy the Yuzu juice locally? I've searched every Asian grocer in Chicago and no one carries it.

Yu / January 25, 2009 7:03 PM

I got mine at Tensuke Market, a small Japanese grocery in Elk Grove Village. Yuzu juice is pretty preicy (I think I paid about $8 for a small bottle), but the distinctive flavor is worth it. Plus you need only a few drops to impart the flavor.

I'm sure Mitsuwa in Arlignton Heights carries it, too. I can't think of a place in Chicago, though. (Sorry!)

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