Sunday, August 7, 2016

Greek grilled octopus

I’ve been cooking a lot of octopus lately; I always do so during the summer when my cravings change and I yearn for fish and food that evokes memories, as well as quick and easy recipes that don’t require a lot of time or effort.

Octopus to me is the epitome of summer. It’s the food I grew up eating at our summer house by the sea outside of Athens and the sort of mezes I always order when I’m at a seaside restaurant in any coastal part of Greece.

I love cooking octopus and I never got why people are afraid of it. As with anything else —a good beef steak, a hamburger patty, a nice piece of fish— it has its technique, but that’s it. Nothing too complicated, nothing too hard.

Whether it is cooked in its own juices or in water, it all comes down to how long you cook it and checking it periodically. Granted, not all octopuses were created equal and some are tougher than others, so checking it with a fork after a certain amount of time and knowing how its texture needs to be when it’s done cooking, is all you need to know.

I have shared with you a couple of octopus recipes in the past, both Greek; one for braised octopus with pasta, and another for boiled octopus with vinegar, olive oil and oregano, and this one is yet another amazing octopus preparation; the grilled octopus. I usually grill it (essentially griddle it), but you can use an open grill/bbq as well.

The octopus, cooked this way, is soft and juicy on the inside and beautifully charred, crusty and almost caramelized on the outside, just like it should be. It is the perfect mezes to have with a horiatiki salad, lots of grilled bread, some potato fries and other seafood, and of course with a glass of wine or ouzo.

Greek grilled octopus

Octopus, when it’s been cooked perfectly, is soft yet retains an ever-so-slightly chewy texture. When it’s cooked for longer than it needs to be, it becomes too soft, mushy and unappetizing. When it’s cooked less time than required, well, then you know how it is, it’s as tough as leather.

I rarely remove the skin from the octopus in general, and I never do it when I’m going to grill it, because the skin caramelizes and it becomes even more delicious.

You can read a tutorial in this post on how you can clean and prepare a whole octopus.

Yield: 4-6 meze servings

1 large octopus (about 1½ kg), fresh or frozen (and thawed)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 dried bay leaves
10-12 black peppercorns

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the octopus
Greek wild dried oregano
Salt (I only use sea salt in my cooking)

Special equipment: large pan with lid, griddle or grill pan (I use this one) (or you can use your outdoor grill/bbq)

Clean the octopus and separate its head according to the instructions in this post.

Add the octopus (tentacles and head) in a large pan, put the lid on, and place over a low heat. When the octopus starts to release its juices (it will take 5-6 minutes), add the garlic cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns, and boil it in its own juices for about 35 minutes or until it has softened. Check it every 15 minutes in case there’s not enough liquid, and if so, add a bit of boiling water. Also, turn it around once halfway through cooking.

Check for doneness with your fork. If it goes in the thick part of the tentacle easily, it’s done.

Remove the octopus from the pan and place it onto a platter to cool. Then, separate the octopus tentacles by cutting with a knife where they are joined at the top.

Heat your grill over high heat and once extremely hot, brush with some olive oil (use a heat resistant brush for this). Turn heat down to medium-high and place the octopus on the grill. Cook for 12-15 minutes in total, until it’s charred all over.

Transfer onto a platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano and salt. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. If I can find an octopus in Tucson, I will be trying this! I cooked one only once in Venice, and it came out okay, but I love the idea of grilling it. Maybe out Asian grocer will have one?

    PS - a belated happy Name Day! I thought of you on your day and, being the bad correspondent I am, never got to write!