It’s Moonstruck Bay’s Italian-Style Grilled Octopus
There’s no doubt that, for many, octopus is not exactly that “go to” seafood protein that jumps to mind when thinking about what to serve one’s self or for dinner guests. Just the look of it–particularly raw–can be a just this side of a “run-screeching-into-the-street” experience for some of the most (sadly) squeamish. BUT, it’s actually delicious, if prepared correctly, and has a cooked texture somewhere between the tail and claw meat of that most luxurious of seafood “monsters,” (once maligned as fit only for the poorest waterman’s fare), the beloved lobster!
Frankly, as a lifelong proponent of “more-for-me” in situations like these, all that push back from those faint-of-heart foodies works out beautifully for the rest of us because it keeps the misunderstood octopus so very reasonably priced–despite it’s relative rarity.
If you love Calamari and you’ve never tried octopus, know that it is undoubtedly that next adventurous step for all you squid lovers out there! Bigger, badder? Sure! But it’s also, oh, so delectable and ridiculously simple!
Never tried Calamari? Then grilled octopus is a great start for your future as a lifelong fan/devourer of Cephalopods!
As for me? Sorry, silly squeamazoids, I can only tell you that–ever since I was introduced to these most beguiling of cephalopods by a Korean friend during my military tour at Osan AB, South Korea, I have come to love it–especially a fire-seared knot of grilled octopus arms (fire-crisped sequins of suckers the full length makes them ‘arms’ not ‘tentacles’–delivering a BIG “whew” for some of you!)
It just doesn’t get much sexier than enchantingly charred octopus arms–simply and exquisitely glazed with the perfume of a truly good extra virgin olive oil, finished with a loving little squeeze of fresh lemon and then coyly bussed with that finishing bite of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Serve them curled up on my plate with an herbal knoll of baby greens–coquettishly kissed with the silky citrus tingle of a simple vinaigrette dressing, pair them with the flinty zip of a cool, crisp and pear/citrus blessed Portuguese Alvarinho (one of my favorites is an award winning 2016 from Anselmo Mendes out of the Monção e Melgaço region) and I’m transported! It’s truly heaven on a plate (and in a glass)!
Get the freshest octopus you can find from a reputable fresh seafood purveyor! I often drive 45 minutes one way to the closest “Whole Foods” for fresh seafood that is not always readily available on the Atlantic Coast or Eastern Shore of Virginia–with consistently great results!
Sometimes octopus is sold whole and uncleaned. Ask your purveyor to clean it for you (beak, etc. removed) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always clean it yourself–although I’m betting at least some of you will walk away from that option once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor from a dead faint following a sneak peek at DIY “YouTube” video…
Since I’m the only one in my house that eats it–I usually go with cleaned and purchase only a panel of four arms from a medium-sized octopus. That’s enough for an “as is” serving for one or a blissful dinner for two chopped into delectable chunks and tossed with a entrée-sized salad of crisp baby greens, cucumbers, and sweet Campari tomato quarters, while still sizzling from a couple of minutes of flame seared drama on the grill.
Trust me, my darlings! This one (my riff on a recipe from Deborah Mele’s “Italian Food Forever” blog) is just pure epicurean theater! I promise this recipe will get one “curtain call” after another–a favorite for any special occasion or the perfect “just because!”
It’s Moonstruck Bay’s Italian-style Grilled Octopus
Ingredients (1 to 2 servings)
1/2 to 1 pound of fresh, cleaned medium-sized octopus arms–1 to 2 “panels” of four arms each
2-4 t. whole peppercorn mélange
1/2-1 whole lemon, quartered (+1 more for post-grill seasoning)
1 c. dry white wine (no heavy oak Chardonnay’s here, please! Go pinot grigio…)
2 wine corks
2-4 large garlic cloves
Water–enough to provide 1″ of cover to the octopus
EEVO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil–the good stuff!)
Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Up to 24 hours ahead, assemble all ingredients except the octopus in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Grabbing the panel of the octopus at the top–arms at the bottom–dunk it up and down in the boiling water about an inch or so at a time until you’ve covered the entire length of the arms–this gives them that delightful curl! Repeat with the second panel, if you’ve got one!
Cover and reduce to a simmer and cook until a fork pierces easily–40 to 50 minutes. (Up to 90 minutes for some…).
Drain and allow to come to room temperature before grilling. (Or, once cooled, you can pop it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before grilling).
Fire up the charcoal grill–a chimney full of briquets will do it.(If a gas grill is where you are going–set to high, cover and preheat at least 5 min.) Bring your coals to a glowing, gray ash and ensure your grate–charcoal or gas–is clean and well-oiled. Coat the octopus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently lay the octopus–sucker side up, first–on the heated grate and sear for 3 to 4 minutes per side (do NOT panic when the flames erupt as the EVOO drips onto them–that’s flavor-fire, darlings!)
Serve immediately with a squeeze of fresh lemon and salt and pepper to taste and pair with a baby greens salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette — I love Martha Stewart’s (substituting agave syrup for the sugar) and have listed it below–and white wine such as a most marvelous Portuguese Albarinho or Spanish Albariño!
Martha’s Favorite Vinaigrette
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. (generous + more to taste, as needed)
1/8 t. freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of sugar (I use 1 t. agave syrup)
Whisk vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar (agave syrup). Slowly add the EVOO while whisking or give it a whirl in a blender.