Charred Octopus on a plate of luscious field vegetables is a very dramatic and arresting dish visually. The absolute contrast of these ingredients is unexpected, and frankly stunning. The simply refined field greens, roots, and delicate wine sauce under a colorful barbaric foreign tentacle is one I rarely ever see.
I Love Octopus
As many of you know I grew up in Seattle which is a mecca for rarely used ingredients. Very clearly I remember the first time I had octopus, it was pickled in a Japanese style, I ate it from a jar. I was in love. No idea why, I guess I just adore the flavor, texture, and visual nature of this creature. The Nemoesque leviathans from the deep always come to mind when I make squid or octopus dishes, I’ll even lump cuttlefish in there. Shoot just using ink in a dish and I find myself in a childhood fantasy of submarines at great sea depths.
I have discovered a passion and deep love for Mediterranean food and honed my culinary focus there. I was introduced to so many new ways to cook tentacled creatures. Most people will eat Octopus in the form of deep-fried calamari, but most of my friends will shy away from the suction covered tentacle. Don’t run from it though, please at least try it, it is delicious. This dish is based on fresh Mediterranean preparation, it is a bit rich but very approachable. Fast too, you are looking at about 30-40 minutes total time.
Walking Up to an Octopus
I use prepared octopus almost exclusively. Consequently, rarely do I boil my own anymore. You can, but this preparation is just as good.
However, this is a sequential addition recipe so each ingredient is added after the previous step is complete. The alternation between grill and stove or hob is to ensure close to simultaneous completion. The grill steps are immediately following the previous step don’t wait for the time to end. As an example, add the Brussels sprouts and walk out to the grill put the octopus on, and come back to finish the Brussels sprouts.
This dish can edge toward salty, be really careful with any salt additions until the end. This is per guest so it is easy to scale
- 1 Octopus tentacle
- 1 ounce of pancetta finely chopped
- 6 Asparagus tips per guest
- 1.5 Mushrooms sliced
- 5 Baby white potatoes halved
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 3 Brussels sprouts halved lengthwise
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp capers rinsed
- White wine
Rinse the tentacle. With a mallet pound the entire tentacle, soft at the tip more powerfully as it thickens. Near the base, hit it pretty hard, take care not to mash it, but pound it good. Cover and refrigerate.
Parboil the asparagus in unsalted water (I know not traditional but we need to control the salinity here) for 30-40 seconds, remove and spread on a plate to let cool. Add potatoes to the water and boil for 3-4 minutes, remove rinse in cold water and set aside to dry and finish cooling.
Turn the grill on high.
This is a sequential addition recipe so each ingredient is added after the previous steps time is complete. The alternation between the grill and some on the hob is to ensure close to simultaneous completion. The grill steps are immediately following the previous step don't wait for the time to end. As an example, add the Brussels sprouts and walk out to the grill put the octopus on, and come back to finish the Brussels sprouts.
Stove or Hob
In a saucepan on medium high heat crisp the pancetta with a good glug of olive oil.
When the pancetta is beginning to crisp, add the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, allow to brown for 2 minutes.
Put the Octopus on the hot grill.
Stove or Hob
Add potatoes and stir to incorporate cook for 3 minutes.
Add shallots and garlic, stir to incorporate cook for 4 minutes.
Check the Octopus, if it's charring on the tip flip it over if not comeback after capers.
Stove or Hob
Add capers, stir cook for 1 minute
Add mushrooms stir cook for 3 minutes stirring every minute
Place the asparagus on top and add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of wine, I like a creamy un-oaked chardonnay in this dish. Depending on the portions you are making this will either reduce quickly or take a while. when a loose broth forms and has reduced by about 2/3rds remove from heat cover keeping warm.
Check the Octopus and ensure both sides are lightly charred and rich in color. When it is, time to plate.
check and adjust seasoning. For effect stack, the bright green asparagus on the side, and evenly distribute the remainder among the plates including sauce. Lay a tentacle on top in the center. The color contrast will be amazing. Serve with rustic toasted bread slices, often I do this on the hot grill takes just a moment
In Closing, Charred Octopus really lends itself to chardonnay, an argument could be made for a drier white, but I have found a creamy un-oaked Chardonnay is a really nice match. With the capers and rich sauce, it just pairs really well. Any white would work, but I so rarely drink chardonnay. I’m surprised when I find such a good match.
If you love seafood you will love these recipes.