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Author Notes: There is nothing worse than bad Octopus, or squid for that matter. I was given "The Young Man and the Sea" as a gift a few years back, and this was immediately the recipe that jumped out at me. My mouth watered; I almost tasted being back at Esca. Thankfully, despite being in the middle of Pennsylvania, large IQF Octopi are available at the supermarket. If you have access to fresh, obviously less prep, less rigamarole is required. But if you're like me, this recipe, even with some of my shortcuts, results in a perfectly tender, succulent dish that can give your guests a taste of the Mediterranean no matter where you live. As an appetizer--say two big legs for each guest--its also quite affordable.
Pasternack suggests serving it with stewed corona beans. I usually use canned cannelini beans (I've never been a bean soaker, not quite the connoisseur) , and add pancetta or bacon to the mix as a base...because, well, it's delicious. If you want to make two octopi and use this as a main as I have done previously, gently laid atop the cannlini beans (which you can make ahead and bring to room temp), I also usually serve deep fried olives with an aioli, or the NYT garlicky, creamy gazpacho, as an appy.
Top with your favorite zesty vinaigrette! —TheVealWhisperer
for the octopus
- 1.5 pounds Octopus, or two at roughly 3 lbs (but don't use little guys for this!)
- 1 Bottle red wine
- 2 Carrots, chopped into two or three segments
- 1 Spanish Onion, quartered
- 1 Bay leaf
- 6 Wine corks (Optional. I think that the idea that these "tenderize" the Octopus is a myth)
- 1 Lemon, juice and zest.
- A few sprigs Fresh herbs (I usually use oregano and italian parsley, but use what you want!)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a dash of your best stuff for drizzling.
- 2 cloves garlic/peeled
Stewed Cannelini Beans
- 2 Cans Cannelini Beans
- .25 to .5 pounds Pancetta or bacon (inexact quantity, just go with your gut)
- .4 to .5 Spanish onion, diced.
- 1 carrot, diced.
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2-3 sprigs Thyme
- 2 cups Chicken Stock, or whatever stock you love.
- 1 Garlic clove, minced.
- Place your thawed (or fresh) Octopus in a large pot, add the red wine, bay leaf, wine corks, carrots/celery/onions/garlic cloves (as for a stew). If you need to add some water to cover the octopus during cooking, feel free.
- Bring everything to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer for an hour and fifteen minutes. Just let it go; you can add water, if need be, but the octopus will inevitably float to the top.
- Meanwhile, cut the pancetta/bacon into lardons and in a medium pot (one large enough to cook 2 cans of the beans--we all know our own pot capacities best) at medium heat, fry until cooked but not crispy.
- Add the onion, carrot, and celery. And, after mixing everything in, add the garlic. Saute until everything is tender. Add the sprigs of thyme and cook for another minute.
- Drain the cannelini beans and add them to the pot with the bacon and veggies. Give it a turn or two, raise the heat to medium high, and add the chicken stock. Simmer until the liquid is basically gone. Put into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- When the octopus is done simmering, take it to a cutting board and let cool. Cut the legs individually from the hood. Cut the hood in half.
- Juice and zest the lemon and add to the olive oil and herbs in a ziplock bag. Add the octopus pieces, shake, seal, and put in the fridge overnight.
- Next day: light up your grill. Hardwood is best. Take out the cannelini bean stew to come to room temp.
- When the grill is hot, take out the octopus in its marinade. Using either a basket or a grate with close rods (Alas! I've lost too much good seafood to the regular Weber grate!), put the pieces of octopus on the grill. You should hear sizzle; you should hear faint popping (I assume issuing from the little suction-cups).
- Turn in about 3-4 minutes. It's all feel. When the smaller ends of the octopus are crispy, and there is a nice char on the larger pieces, including the hood, take off the grill and divide. Place atop or aside a heap of the bean stew, and drizzle with either lemon (my route) or your favorite vinaigrette. I usually add a garnish of some halved cherry tomatoes from my garden, and a wee bit of feta.