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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Poulpe or Pieuvre – Octopus. Octopus on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
There are many tasty octopus dishes in French cuisine. On the menu may be baby octopuses anywhere from 2.50 cm (1”)  across and weighing up to 100 grams (4 oz) or others that weigh up to 2 kilos (4.4 lbs). The smallest octopuses will be very lightly fried, and they will be tender. A whole stuffed baby octopus may be served cold and a larger one may be grilled. Any octopuses over 300 grams (11 oz) will have been cooked for an hour or more and then fried, grilled, braised or stewed.

Small octopuses may be prepared with the same recipes as small calamari, squid, but apart from these, an octopus has a distinctly different texture. Octopus is all about texture, they are slightly chewy, and they work well with the flavors they are served with.

Octopus, cuttlefish, and squid.
Octopus at the top, cuttlefish on the left and squid on the right.
Octopus has eight arms, cuttlefish and squid have eight arms and two tentacles.

The largest European consumers of octopus are the Spanish followed by the Portuguese, Greeks, and Italians. France holds a distant eighth or ninth place but has plenty of mouthwatering recipes. The worldwide leaders in octopus consumption are the Japanese.
Octopus on French menus:

Carpaccio De Pieuvre Huile d'Olive, Citron et Basilic Octopus Carpaccio marinated in olive oil, lemon and basil.
Duo de Poulpes et Seiches Grillés à la Plancha – A combined serving of octopus and cuttlefish grilled on the plancha.

Pieuvre Grillée aux Tomates Confites et  Basilic –  Grilled octopus served with a tomato jam and flavored with basil.

Grilled Octopus
Salade Tiède de Pieuvre Marinée et Pommes de Terre Nouvelles – A warm salad of marinated octopus served with new potatoes.
Pieuvre Braisée au Vin Rouge – Octopus, braised in red wine
Salade De Poulpes – Fried or grilled octopus cut into small pieces and served cold with a green or mixed salad and a vinaigrette dressing.

Octopus salad

Teille Sétoise A traditional octopus pie, claimed as their own by the residents of Sète with Italian heritage. The Teille is a traditional Sétoise street food that has now made it to the big time and is on many local restaurant menus. The pie is filled with octopus, tomatoes, and onions flavored with garlic and rosemary.    In restaurants, where this sometime street food has made it onto the menu it is served as entrée, the French starter.  Individual pies are often accompanied by a small green salad. (The Teille is now also made with calmar, squid, or seiche, cuttlefish). 
Sète is the largest French fishing port on the Mediterranean. It was built as the Mediterranean end of the Canal des Deux Mers, the canal of the two seas, which links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  It opened in the middle of the 17th century but now is only used for recreational boating.  You may hire a self-drive cabin cruiser and cruise from Sète to Bordeaux. Sète is the center for Languedocian cuisine around the Etang de Thau, the saltwater Etang Basin. This natural saltwater basin produces most of France’s Mediterranean mussels and oysters and is an important center for water sports.

Octopus a la Plancha.
With eggplant, tomato, crispy panisse, basil oil.
I catch my first octopus.

According to National Geographic, the largest giant Pacific Octopus was 30 feet across and weighed more than 600 pounds. Despite that denizen of the deep, the common Atlantic and Meditteranean octopus is much smaller. However, I was only  7 or 8 years old when I caught my first octopus, and that was in Juan Le Pins on the Mediterranean coast.  It was an exciting catch.   On holiday with my family, I was walking in the water next to a wooden pier watching the water skiers launching off the top.  Apparently, I disturbed an octopus that had linked itself to a wooden plank, and suddenly I had an octopus wrapped around my leg, close to my ankle. Seeing an octopus on my leg, it probably weighed 400 grams (1 lb),  I cried and if I believe those who were there, I screamed.  Within a second two French water skiers waiting for their turn jumped off the pier above me and pulled this giant octopus off me and threw it away.  However, not before my swimming trunks got sprayed with ink.  The stains could not be removed, and I wore those trunks with pride until I could no longer fit into them. That was also the last time I caught an octopus.  Since then I have seen many other octopuses, but apart from those in aquariums or National Geographic movies they have all been headed for the cooking pot.
Octopus with spaghetti

Octopi or Octopuses?

According to, the name octopus was first used in 1758. The name comes from the Greek oktōpous meaning being eight-footed.  The plural is not octopi as that is a Latin ending, correctly it would be octopodes, though octopuses is acceptable in English.
Octopus in the languages of France's neighbors:
(Catalan -pop roquer), (Dutch – achtarm or  kraak  )(German – gemeiner krake), (Italian-polpo), (Spanish -pulpo),

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017.
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