3.31.11 Octopussy

Grilled octopus 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
G is wild about octopus. At Fairway, he'll often grab a container of vinegary octopus salad that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I come across it in the fridge. OK, I admit it, I'm a bit of an octopussy. I find its alien appearance—the purply sheen, the suction cups, the encephalitic head—rather unnverving. I've sampled some delicious octopus dishes in my time, usually by taking a bite from G's plate. It's almost always served  grilled: in a salad with bamboo shoots and pickled chiles at Momofuku; with discs of buttery potato and smoky chorizo at Colicchio & Sons; and, recently, in a tasty salad at Eataly. But it's not really something I order (I still pick around the tentacles on a plate of calamari, and I can't abide the spidery crackle of a soft shell crab), and certainly not a food I have ever welcomed into my kitchen.

So when G brought home two enormous, slimy purple tentacles and announced his intent to cook them up, I was something between horrified and awe-struck. But soon I was googling away, and read about an octopus dish made at Le Bernardin, that temple of all things from the sea. It called for first braising the octopus in a rich chorizo broth, then marinating it in miso before being charring it to order. I don't know about you, but you could do that to a shoe and I would eat it.
Marinated octopus 790 xxx
after gentle braising, the octopus is slathered with miso and marinated overnight
Chef Eric Ripert serves this preparation with a fermented black-bean sauce vierge and a squid ink-miso vinaigrette. I didn't think G would get quite that fancy, but I pointed him to a nice piece of chorizo we had on hand, and a tub of veal stock in the freezer, and he got to work. Octopus can be kind of rubbery and gross if you don't cook it right, and the secret is in the braising. This tenderizes it, precooking it so you can throw it in a hot pan or on the grill to get a nice crusty exterior.

G braised two whole tentacles in the veal stock with the chorizo until tender; this took longer than you would think. Then he slathered it with red miso and left it in the fridge overnight. (I tried not to look.) The next day he built a hot fire in the Weber, wiped the miso off the octopus (its high sugar content makes it burn) and gave it a nice char. We ate bites of it straight from the grill and it was pretty darned good. It's quite rich, and I think it would be best with a lemony vinaigrette of some sort and maybe a few white beans and/or some peppery greens. I may even roll out my own version this summer, when the grill is in full swing. Octopussy no more.

When the warm weather arrives (notice I said when and not if, eternal optimist that I am), this other preparation from Eric Ripert might be just the ticket for popping your octopus cherry. C'mon, be a man.

Octopus, Charred with Peach & Arugula

from "Avec Ripert: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert"
serves 4
  • — 1/2 small onion, peeled & quartered
  • — 1 small celery stalk, sliced in the bias
  • — 1/2 small carrot, peeled & sliced on the bias
  • — One 3-ounce piece prosciutto
  • — 2 sprigs Italian parsley
  • — 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • — 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • — 8 cups water, approx.
  • — 2 pounds octopus, head removed and tentacles separated
  • — 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • — 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • — 1 peach, halved, pitted & thinly sliced
  • — 4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • — 1 lemon, halved

Combine the onion, celery, carrot, prosciutto, parsley, garlic and cayenne pepper in a pot with about 8 cups of water. Season the water with salt and boil for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Add the octopus and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for about 1 hour or until the octopus is tender when gently pierced with a knife. Cool the octopus in the braising liquid at room temperature until cool enough to handle.

Remove the octopus from the braising liquid and drain well. Heat a cast-iron skillet or a flat griddle over high heat until it is very hot. Season the octopus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the octopus until it is caramelized and crusted on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the charred octopus to a cutting board and cut each tentacle on the bias into 4 slices.

Place the octopus slices in the center of 4 plates and garnish with arugula and 3 to 4 slices of the peach. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of aged balsamic vinegar over and around the octopus, and finish each dish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately.

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absolutely love this post, title and all! I'm not usually so adventurous in the kitchen, but this recipe (and george's)sound fantastic xo
stephanie on March 31, 2011 at 11:59 am —
i love octopus! does g also enjoy percebes? am crazy for both. thanks for the recipe.
giovanna on March 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm —
Giovanna: Do you find percebes where you live? Although I've eaten them in Spain, and I'm sure G has, too, I don't think I've ever seen them in the fish markets in New York.
laura on March 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm —
hi laura, i haven't eaten them in the states, only in spain. as much as i can! i found this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/293815 our friends in nyc have said that they found somewhere... will inquire. best, g
giovanna on March 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm —
okay, that link was a fail. i can only find old articles on bc or washington farmed barnacles. but it's seems it may have been banned.... will get back to you when i hear from my friends.
giovanna on March 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm —
Do let me know...or it may be the perfect excuse to go back to Spain! ;-)
laura on March 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm —
kudos for the octopus. reminds me of sunny times on holiday.
the twice bitten on April 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm —
Thanks, Ruth! Yes, shades of Greece...
laura on April 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm —
A friend emailed from Cañar, Ecuador, with this recipe for Michael Jenkins' Mexican-style pulpo cocktail. Simmer a small octopus for about 3 hours, keeping it just below boiling. When a fork goes in easily, take out, save the water, let it cool. With a cleaver make chunks the size you like for a cocktail. I like them small, about 1/2" on each side. Marinate in the juice of lemon and a little salt overnight. Next day, chop up sweet onions, tomatoes, just the right amount of serrano pepper (or keep separate and let guests add as they like), and a little fresh cilantro. Add salt to broth to taste. Mix octopus with other ingredients and fill 3/4 full in tall clear parfret or cocktail glasses, cover with broth.
laura on April 4, 2011 at 11:07 am —