Al Sobotka can swing an octopus but can he cook one?

Octopus TentaclesDo you know Al Sobotka?  Yeah, I didn’t know who he was either until last Saturday night. Turns out he’s the dude who picks the octopus up and swings him around when Detroit Red Wing fans toss this seafood on the ice. (There’s talk of banning his swings which make the crowd cheer – I guess the NHL doesn’t like people to have fun).

For non hockey fans (in other words, non-Canadians) I should explain: since 1952, throwing an octopus on the ice at Joe Louis Arena during the play offs is an important tradition. It’s supposed to bring good luck to the Red Wings and fans love it so much that they smuggle cooked octopi past security under their clothes. Really!

According to lore, the owner of a local fish market, Peter Cusimano, started the tradition when he threw an octopus from the stands onto the ice. The eight legs supposedly symbolized the eight wins it would take  to win the Stanley Cup at that time. Guess what?  The Red Wings swept to the cup that year and an ocean tradition on a fresh water lake shore was born.

Wikipedia says that:

“there is a certain etiquette that must be followed for fans that wish to throw octopuses onto the ice. The most appropriate time to throw an octopus onto the ice is after the national anthem is sung or after the Red Wings have scored a goal. Under these circumstances, the eight-legged creature must be thrown onto the ice surface in an area that is clear of all players. It is never acceptable to aim for opposing players. Beforehand, octopuses are usually boiled to reduce the amount of “slime” coating and facilitate the time it takes to clean up the ice and prevent further delay. Since Joe Louis Arena does not condone the throwing of any foreign objects onto the ice, fans often sneak the sea creatures in wrapped around their bellies in trash bags. The boiling process also lessens the odor and allows the fans to get past security. Tactics are also used to protect the identity of octopus-throwers from arena security. It is common practice for the hurler to ask the surrounding people to stand up with him to shroud the task in anonymity.

While I’m all for fun and tradition, I hope Sobotka takes them home and cookes them up – it just seems wasteful to use them as talismans only. So, for hockey fans and seafood lovers alike, I offer you this recipe from my hubby Martin’s superstar chef repertoire.

Martin Kouprie’s Octopus Salad

Use the 1 pound size octopus that have already been tenderized.

Cooking the octopus:
8         octopus, legs separated
10 liters        water
1 liter        red wine
5 cups         mire poix (carrot, celery, onion, & fennel)
6 cloves         garlic (crushed)
2 tbsp        whole black pepper
3 tbsp        salt
1 bunch        fresh oregano

Preparing the marinade/dressing:
½ cup         sweet mirin
¼ cup        rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp        red wine vinegar
1 tbsp        lemon juice
1 tsp        saffron
4 cups        olive oil, extra virgin
¾ cup        fresh oregano, chopped
salt and ground white pepper

Preparing the salad:
2        red peppers, roasted and peeled
2        yellow peppers, roasted and peeled
½ cup        red onions
½ cup        black Gaeta olives, pitted and halved
½ cup        capers, small
½ cup        roasted garlic cloves
Salad greens such as lamb’s lettuce

Cooking: In a large pot filled with the water, add all the ingredients except the oregano and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to the bare minimum that loows the liquid to simmer and continue to cook for 90 minutes.   Add in one bunch of fresh oregano and cook for 30 minutes longer.

Remove the pot from heat and allow octopus to remain in liquid for at least an hour. Peel the octopus using a clean, damp towel, but try to leave the suckers on the legs for looks. Slice the octopus legs into thin rounds and set aside.

Marinade: In a mixing bowl, whisk all the marinade  ingredients together and season to taste. Combine the octopus and enough marinade to moisten evenly. You can proceed right away but the flavour will improve if this mixture is left in the refrigerator for several hours first.

Salad: Julienne the roasted peppers into long strips. Peel the red onion, julienne and separate the strands by hand. In a bowl combine the peppers and onion together with the olives, capers, and roasted garlic cloves. Toss with the marinated octopus. Serve over salad greens.


9 Responses to Al Sobotka can swing an octopus but can he cook one?

  1. Fun story and delicious sounding recipe, Dana. But how does your superstar chef serve it?Tossed onto the plate? Lobbed across the room? Or on a hockey stick? Or does the waitstaff wear a Red Wings jersey?

  2. truenorth67 says:

    I would like to befriend Al Sobotka and get me some octopus. It’s not the cheap seafood alternative it used to be.

  3. Ew, but it’s better than smuggling live octopi past security under their clothes.

    I’m one of the few Canadians that’s indifferent towards hockey. I tend to jump on the bandwagon when the Leafs or Sens do well (I spent 4 years in Ottawa) but refuse to engage or humour fanatical Sens fans in their “Toronto sucks” tirades.

    As for octopus, I’ll leave the cooking of it to you guys.

  4. Barb says:

    Hahaha Good one Charmain! It probably is delicious. This is a dish I would order at a restaurant but likely would not make at home.

  5. Diva says:

    I know its dead wrong – but I love this tradition. I’m a hockey fan and its one of the quirky things I love about the game … even though I can’t stand the Red Wings. 😉

    I’ve always wondered what happens to the octopi after they’re picked up off the ice??? I suppose they’re thrown away … which is wasteful and sad.

  6. robin asbell says:

    What a silly waste of food. I’m all for fun things, especially if they interrupt a boring match, but that one is a stretch. Too bad they didn’t throw eight popscicles on the ice-they wouldn’t have to import them.
    Don’t they know the players are all wearing lucky underwear?

  7. cheryl says:

    For once, I’m completely out of words.

  8. Rosa says:

    I’m not very familiar with octopus, apart from the fact that I find it delicious… That salad sounds terrific!



  9. peachkins says:

    hmmnn.. this is interesting..I haven’t tried octopus yet but I’m willing to..

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