Do 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.