I’ve been having a an extra-marital relationship. With Twitter. Specifically with someone (he/she — don’t know) who has been writing snappy little responses to some of my tweets. A back and forth repartee began and it culminated in playing, “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.“
Get your mind out of the gutter, this isn’t 50 Shades! I’m talking octopus! At the same time I was prepping octopus for this post, my (still unknown) friend was grilling his/her own octopi. What are the odds??? We traded pictures of our finished dishes and agreed that we must get together sometime to discuss these sea monsters!
Funny thing is, this octopus has been on my to do list since Christmas, when I met a guest at my neighbor’s Christmas party who was particularly fond of my pate. As we munched on chicken liver and sipped some cab, we talked about cooking — which led to me sheepishly admitting to having a cooking blog. He asked me if I had ever made octopus before. I hadn’t. But being adventurous — and saddled with the dubious title of “food blogger” — I told him I’d give it a try and report the results.
Way too many coincidences, right? This dish was a foregone conclusion!
When I told my Mom I was making octopus, she told me to give it a good beating. Whaaa????
“To tenderize it“, she told me.
My grandfather advised a long cooking time. My friend, Nola, asked if I was going to grill it. Clearly, I had a lot of options.
Then I found this very handy video on grilling octopus by none other than Martha Stewart. To be fair, Martha, like me, had never made octopus — but she’s got connections. She brought in the chef partner to Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. This chef not only made it seem doable, he made it look easy.
And it was. I’ve had more trouble making pie crust than making this dish. So take heart. This is simple, accessible and most of all absolutely delicious!
After I got past the scary sea monster trepidation that comes with having two cephalopods slumped in a plastic bag in my fridge, I put on my 10th grade Biology student hat and let my inner-science-geek out. While cleaning them, I identified the eyes, pulled out the beak and inspected the little suckers on the tentacles. They are truly miracles of efficiency.
I followed the general instructions that I’d gotten from Martha – braising the octopus with a mire poix, some wine and several wine corks (for tenderness) — no need for snarky comments about how much wine we had to drink to get the corks. Just enough, thank you very much!
I tossed them in a marinade of thinly sliced garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes and let them hang out in that blend over night. The next day, I grilled them for a few minutes to get a nice smoky char and served them with a greek orzo salad and garlicky grilled bruschetta. Yum!!!
Don't be afraid of this cephalopod! The technique is easy and the end result is smoky, tender and delicious!
For the braise
- 2 1/2 pounds octopus
- 2 carrots roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery roughly chopped
- 1/2 medium onion roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 wine corks
For the marinade
- 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 lemon zested
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves torn
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- olive oil
- lemon wedges
- fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- red onion thinly sliced
- Rinse the octopus under cold water. Cut off the octopus body (that bulbous sac over the eyes) set aside. Remove the next part of the body -- the part with the eyes and discard, leaving just the tentacles. Flip the tentacles upside down and press the beak out of the opening at the center of the octopus. Discard the beak.
- Place the octopus body and tentacles in a large pan or dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery, onion, crushed garlic, parsley, wine, olive oil and wine corks. Cover the pot tightly with a lid and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until octopus is firm but tender. Remove from heat. Place octopus on a platter and let cool.
- When octopus is cool enough to handle, run your fingers over the body and tentacles and slough off the skin, it will come off in patches - be careful not to work the tentacles too hard, or they will break off.
- Place body and tentacles in a large bowl. Add sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, parsley leaves and olive oil. Using tongs or your hands, toss to coat the octopus. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
- Heat the grill to high heat, about 450 degrees. Sear the octopus on the grill, weighting it down with a heavy pan to achieve the best crust. Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from grill. Cut off the tentacles and slice the body into 1/2-3/4" thick rounds.
- Arrange octopus on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze of lemon. Sprinkle with red onions and flat leaf parsley. Serve with additional lemon wedges.
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