It’s been a while since we had octopus. In fact, we haven’t had octopus since my sous vide disaster with it last June. I still haven’t figured out that disaster to attempt it again. Instead, I have been having way too much fun making homemade pasta. Thanks, John & Stefan. I had forgotten how good fresh made pasta is. This is the third batch of pasta in the 3 weeks. The star of this story, however, is the octopus.
Do you like octopus, that 8 legged cephalopod and denizen of the deep that creeps people out? It’s OK if you don’t but Baby Lady & I love octopus. We like baby octopus grilled and tossed atop greens and veggies in a nice salad with a lemon vinaigrette. We like it in sushi, especially spicy jalapeño rolls that we get at Sushi Sake. We like the larger legs grilled and served as a main course. We just like octopus and there are a myriad of things to do with it.
Despite it’s popularity along the Mediterranean, Japan, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, octopus is not a favored meat in the US. Given our national finickiness and squeamishness about what we eat, this is no surprise. It’s a shame, too, because octopus is a wonderful protein with great health benefits. Nevertheless, you can find octopus if you simply look for it and if you haven’t ever tried it, you should. It’s available at most Asian markets, frozen, typically in sizes between baby octopus to small octopus weighing 1 – 1.5 lbs. You can also find it at many fish markets and if they don’t carry it they can order it. You can also find it readily available online. You see, most octopus is cleaned and frozen because it spoils quickly. Also, like its cousin the squid, freezing octopus has no negative effects. To the contrary, freezing octopus helps to tenderize it. So don’t hesitate to buy frozen octopus online if you can’t find it available locally. Because of its considerable shrinkage during cooking, a 3 lb. octopus is about the right size for 4 people.
The problem with octopus is cooking it. Cooked incorrectly, octopus is incredibly chewy, like rubber. Some people will tell you to beat the octopus against your sink or with a rolling pin or some other blunt implement of destruction to tenderize it and then grill it quickly. This will provide you a chewy yet tender octopus. Of course, if you cook it a tad too long, you get rubberized octopus that will make a great chew toy for your dog. The more preferred and safer way to prepare octopus is to slowly cook it. As with any tough meat, slow cooking the octopus tenderizes the meat. In addition, however, it concentrates the flavor of the octopus providing a delightful flavor sensation. There are also multiple slow cooking techniques. Some techniques call for marinating it overnight in an olive oil, herb & lemon marinade and then slowly roasting it for 1 to 1-1/2 hour and finishing it on a hot grill to crisp the skin. Others suggest putting the octopus in water to cover and cooking it until it’s tender, roughly about an hour depending upon the size of the octopus. Then, there is this technique of braising the octopus. While it is difficult to overcook octopus, it can be done yielding you a dry flavorless, tough piece of meat reminiscent of an eraser. Hopefully, this technique will pique your interest to try octopus if you never have tried it. If you have tried it, we hope you give our recipe a try. It’s pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself. :)
- 1 octopus, 3.5 lbs., tentacles only, par cooked and chopped into 2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 10 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium white onion, 1/2 inch dice
- 1-1/2 cup dry Red Wine
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp crushed hot red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp capers
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 bundle fresh basil, chopped
- 1 lb. basic pasta dough (recipe found here)
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
To start, prepare the octopus by removing the tentacles. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and place the tentacles into the pot.
Cook the octopus for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and slice the tentacles into roughly 2 inch pieces.
Pour olive oil into a chef’s pan or large pot over medium heat. Add minced garlic.
Cook garlic until it begins to turn golden brown. Add the tomatoes.
Add the onions
Add red pepper flakes
Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, roughly 10 minutes. Now, add the sliced octopus and any juices.
Add the juice of 1/2 lemon
Now, the red wine
Next, the salt and black pepper
and the crushed, dried oregano
and the basil
and bay leaves
Reduce heat and simmer for roughly 45 minutes.
When the octopus is done, cut your linguini
Cook the pasta.
When it’s done, roughly 4 minutes, add the pasta to the braised octopus and toss. Put in a serving vessel and add chopped parsley.
Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese
Toss, serve & enjoy!
NOTES: You can substitute dry white wine for the red wine. We enjoy the added depth of flavor with the red. Also, if you don’t want your braised octopus spicy either reduce the red pepper flakes to 1 Tbsp or eliminate it all together.