Sunday, March 14, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Octopus Salad, Anna Sultana's Qarnit Stew (Octopus stew, Maltese Style)

There are signs and then there are signs.

Last week we saw that Turner Classics was showing It Came from Beneath the Sea, a dandy 1955 Sci-Fi film about a giant octopus that attacked San Francisco.  Imagine how it would've looked in 3D.

Anyhow, I remembered that Ma sometimes made Qarnit Stew.  Qarnit is Maltese for octopus.  I flipped through Entertaining with The Sopranos to see if Carmela fed Tony and the gang any octopus.  Carmela goes the salad route with octopus.

Well, it is Lent and we should eat some seafood.

Okay... here I ran into trouble.  Carmela lives in New Jersey.  Near the ocean.  No problem for her to get octopus.  Fulton Fish Market is on the way home from work for Tony.   

Try telling the fellow behind the fish counter at either Safeway or Sobey's in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that you want an octopus.  I mean, we are in the prairies.  Wheat we got.  Polar bears we got.  Beluga whales we got.

Octopus gets you funny looks.  Especially if you have gray hair.

I browsed through the frozen food's fish section and found something called Seafood Combination.  I saw the picture.  It had octopus tentacles.  Okay... good enough.

Carmela Soprano's Octopus Salad is a pretty easy recipe.  A green salad topped with bite-sized pieces of cooked octopus.  Either salad or stew, the octopus gets cooked a good long time.  I cooked the Seafood Combination.  I made the salad with the Seafood Combination.  I served the salad.

Then I played 20 questions.

Paul poked at his salad.  "What's in this?"
"What kind of fish?"
"Fish.  You know... fish."
Paul got a little testy.  "Okay. I recognize the shrimp and the clams.  What's the rest of this stuff?"
"Oh, for the love of Mike."  I went to the garbage, fished out the bag and read, "Mussels.  Happy now, Sherlock?"
"What else?"
"Cuttlefish," I read.
Paul started to smell a rat.  "What else?"
The jig was up.  I gulped and muttered, "Squid and octopus."

I don't know if it was the squid or the octopus that got to him that night.  Either way, there was a fair amount of leftovers. 

Most of the fish Ma grew up with aren't available in Queens, New York.  Things like lampuki, vopi, cerna, dott, accola, sargu and dentici.  We ate a lot of bluefish, some of it fresh from Sheep's Head Bay.  Ma fried, poached, grilled and baked fish.  No problem getting us to eat fish.  We liked bluefish.  But then, sometimes, she made Qarnit Stew.

Then we'd play 20 questions with her.   

Another recipe down.  Seventy-two more to go.

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