The octopus has risen to the level of delicacy in many parts of world, mostly due to the fact that it is one of the more unique mollusks under the sea. With three hearts that serve to pump through both gills and the rest of its body, in the animal kingdom the octopus is known to be highly intelligent with a complex nervous system leading to a clever defense mechanism against its predators. In the culinary world, it is a hearty and lean protein that does pose some challenges in mastering its tenderness and avoiding a rubbery texture to taste.
Needless to say, our lab was not immune to this challenge but in seeking to reproduce the tastes we have found in the Croatian coast we found that using a three prong approach to the cooking of octopus is best:
1. Braise and Not Boil: Several recipes indicate that you should boil your octopus for from any where from 30 -to 90 minutes prior to it being cooked. If you’re not careful this can lead to overcooking prior to the tenderizing of your octopus meat. To avoid this you should simmer your octopus on a low and steady heat and allow it to stew until it is cooked. You can use the 30-90 minutes as a marker to check your meat but do not put the meat in the pot and go read a magazine, as each octopus (size, weight etc.) is different and knowing when it is cooked will be up to you. You will know it is cooked if a knife runs tender through the top part of the tentacle like potato.
You may have heard of the Italian cork method but as the NYT demystifies this may be a waste of time…
2. Marinate: Often this is a step that gets missed but if you want to add a second level of fragrance to the octopus and not mask its taste, a simple marinade will do the trick.
3. Grill: The grilling of the octopus is fairly quick and used solely to add another layer of smokiness to the taste, avoid charring since you are not using this method to cook the meat since you did that already in your first prong.
Ask your fish monger to clean your octopus or purchase the tentacles only to cut down on preparation time. If you want to attempt the full gambit Mark Bittman has a great tutorial of taking your whole octopus and breaking it down for use here.
Grilled Octopus with Basil Oil
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 30-90 mins
Grill Time: 8 mins
Total time: 108 -130 mins
- 4 Octopus tentacles cleaned
- 4 lemons
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 cups of water
- 2 Basil stalks
- 1 bay leave
- 2 tsp of pepper kernels
- ½ ounce of chopped parsley
- ½ cup of white wine
- 6 teaspoon of Olive Oil
- Rinse and dry your octopus and set aside
- Prepare your bouquet garni by wrapping 2 basil leaves, bay leaf and pepper and tying with kitchen twine
- Place octopus in 3 cups of water (water should cover the meat slight) add one lemon halved and bouquet garni on low heat for 30-90 minus based on above note.
- Prepare marinade with ½ cup of olive oil, white wine, garlic cloves, parsley, and remaining half of basil stalk. Remove octopus from water once cooked and let cool, place in marinade for 1-2 hours.
- To prepare basil oil, add remaining oil and basil stalk to food processor on chop setting. Remove and set aside.
- Prepare grill to high heat, grill octopus on each side for approximately 4 minutes for each side.
- Remove for plating serve with micro greens and steamed fingerling potatoes if desired. Drizzle basil oil prior to serving.