Generally offered as an appetizer when I’m lucky enough to encounter it on a menu, there is little else that I would order before tender grilled octopus. Although it may not be the most appetizing looking beast, and the texture can be a bit chewy if not prepared well, the flavor is mild and delightful.
When I saw a recipe in Lydecker’s “Seafood alla Siciliana” I thought, this is my chance to find out just how difficult it would be to grill one at home. I ordered a two-pounder at my local fish market, Black Salt, where the fish monger suggested that I brine it before cooking.
After a little more research on the internet I found that while there isn’t much consensus on cooking time everyone agrees on the ritual of dunking the tentacles three times in the boiling water before allowing the rest of the body to follow. Some give reasons for this practice (e.g., to prevent the tentacles from curling) others say it’s just an irresistible tradition. I can’t say that the octopus came out perfect, it was a bit chewy, but it was a good start and I’m optimistic that next time we can improve the results.
1 2 to 2 ½ lb octopus
Salt for brining
½ white wine
Lemon – for garnish
A two and half pound octopus isn’t as much meat as you might think, serving 4 people as an appetizer and 2 as a main course. If your local fish market doesn’t have them in stock, you can often order one. It may come frozen, which actually is supposed to help tenderize the meat. Defrost it in the fridge overnight. If it is still somewhat frozen in the morning finish defrosting it under tepid running water. Let it brine the rest of the day in a solution of 1 cup of salt to 4 quarts of water. This will bring out the flavor of the meat as well as help tenderize it.
A couple of hours before dinner, bring to a boil a large pot of water – enough to well cover the octopus – with an additional ½ cup of dry white wine if you like. Holding the octopus at the neck, first dip the tentacles in the water two times, on the third time allow the rest of the body to fall into the water. Cook at a low simmer for at least 20 minutes.
This is where I think I went wrong by not letting it cook long enough. Test the upper part of the tentacle to make sure it is tender. Once cooked, take the pot off the heat and let cool in the water until just warm.
Meanwhile fire up the grill. When you are ready to eat, cut the octopus into parts. I just cut off the head and grilled it whole, about five minutes on each side. Cut into serving size pieces and serve with lemon.