If a single dish can make a person fall in love with an entire culture, this is it. My first meal in Lisbon was polvo à lagareiro in the back garden of a restaurant in Chiado, setting off a chain reaction of Portugal-philia that hasn't subsided. This dish is generally served simply with cilantro on top. I go a little crazy with a cilantro pesto that on its own could be repurposed for any number of dishes including, but not limited to, crostini.
Traditionally, the octopus is served with batatas a murro-punched potatoes. —Hi, I'm Brian.
1 kg frozen and cleaned octopus
juniper berries, crushed
black peppercorns, crushed
salt and pepper
cloves of garlic, crushed
packed cilantro leaves
raw pepita (shelled pumpkin seeds), or pine nuts
salt and pepper
In This Recipe
Thaw the octopus. Note: you may be compelled to buy fresh octopus. I urge you to go with frozen. The freezing and unfreezing serves to tenderize what can be a very tough cephalopod.
Bring a pot of salted water–salty as the sea–to a boil with the juniper berries, peppercorn, and bay leaves. Reduce to a simmer, and place the octopus in the water. Simmer for an hour or so. Poke it with a sharp knife periodically to check for doneness. It's done when it feels done, which is terrible guidance, but it's a lot like cooking potatoes: when there's no longer any resistance, the octopus is done. The beauty of cooking octopus is that if you overcook it you can actually keep cooking and it'll re-tenderize.
When the octopus is done, remove from the water, and cut the tentacles from the head. Toss with the olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Prepare the grill, preferably charcoal.
When the grill is ready, grill the octopus until crispy, about 2 minutes each side.
Serve with cilantro pesto, below.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan, add the garlic, and heat until slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Discard the garlic.
In a food processor, puree the cilantro and pepita. With the motor running, slowly pour in the garlicky olive oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.