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Oscars Octopus Salad

I'm embarrassed to see that we are creeping up on a month since the last update. This is terrible! To sound like the worst cliche ever, I've been busy. I know, I know, everyone always claims how busy they are. People love to express this concept - I can think of a few off the top of my head who love to spread the word of their busyness...anyway, between projects around the house, handling said house while husband travels for business, some extra hours at that daytime gig, perhaps an event or two celebrating Irish pride and usual madness of living in a city like New York - where carrying thirty pounds of groceries by hand after observing five "gentlemen" seated in a row and ignoring the women hovering above after shoving yourself onto a packed train - seems normal, life has been hectic.

One night that is appreciated in our home is Oscar night. Or should I say, Oscar day? Oscar season? My husband is a movie guy. He went to college for communications, and due to his career in advertising, he's got an eye for media, copy and how visual perceptions impact our lives. Me, I happen to love movie popcorn and seeing an Oscar de la Renta on the red carpet. So it all works out in the end.

On Oscar Sunday, I set the DVR to record the red carpet, the Oscars and Fasion Police (the last to be viewed a few days later), then get to work on a spread that involves a bit of prepwork but zero interruptions during the big night. Dishes can be served either chilled, hot or room temperature. This year, I decided on a feast of the sea, accompanied by this Winter White Salad that is so goddamn delicious I want to eat it daily for breakfast. I prepped the salad, then before I steamed some clams in white wine, shallot and herbs, I got to work on the octopus.

I had picked up a few legees (pronounced leg-ees and sounds cuter than tentacles) at the fish counter and was determined to make this my best version of home-cooked octopus. These guys can be a bit finicky - tough yet tender and at times unyielding to flavor. Or perhaps, and more likely, I just have no clue how to cook it.

All sliced and happy, I then shaved a fennel bulb with my fancy new $24 mandoline, slivered up roasted red pepper, shallot and fresh parsley. Hot olive oil in the pan, I seasoned the shallot, added the fennel and the red pepper. After they wilted a bit, I reseasoned and tossed in the octopus, along with a bit of chicken stock and white beans. Everything sort of melded together yet kept its distinct shape. I added some dried red pepper flakes, fresh clementine and lemon juice, a fat pad of butter. I mean, come on. Butter + seafood = nirvana.

Here's the kicker with this dish: originally planned to be a small afterthought, it was the star of the show (behind Ellen killing it as host, of course)! White beans of any kind - navy, cannellini, whatevs - are a great addition, because they add a creamy texture but tend to absorb the flavor of a dish. The octopus finally relented and appeased my will to sear it properly, while the fennel and roasted pepper contributed a fantastic tangy bite.

As the Oscars came to a wrap, we declared it a success. The special occasion bubbly enhanced the clams and the octopus, the to-die-for mozzarella salad won leading lady and we saw Hanks in a tux. All was well at our little Brooklyn party, and here's to a new season of incredible moviegoing and pressure to step up to the Sunshine and Raviolis website!

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