It starts the size of a volleyball and shrinks to the size of a baseball. 80% of the $15.00 per pound you’ll pay just boils away because it’s water. Without any bones, octopus is primarily made of cross-connected muscle fibers full of collagen. If cooked very quickly the muscle remains tender. However, if over-cooked the muscle fibers squeeze out all of the water causing it to curl and shrink remarkably. The key to guaranteeing tender octopus is to gently simmer for hours to break down the contracted collagen muscles, similar to braising a beef short rib. Although many recipes suggest covering the octopus with corks when simmering, there is little if any evidence indicating corks make a difference in the outcome.
Since octopus is almost all water, the moisture it releases makes a wonderful braising liquid, along with dry white wine. Braise octopus according to Chef Michael Callahan’s technique. After braising, marinate according to greek.food.com’s recipe, and then grill the octopus quickly for flavor and crispy texture. The following recipe yields an appetizer portion for four people.
1 1-2 lb octopus, cleaned – available at Under the C Seafood in Center City, Philadelphia
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion – diced
2 carrots – diced
2 celery ribs – diced
5-6 black peppercorns
2 Bay leaves
1 handful fresh parsley
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bottle of dry white wine
1. In a pot large enough to fit the octopus, fill with water and bring to a boil. Put the octopus in boiling water for 30 seconds and remove
2. In a stainless steel (non-reactive) braising pan, sauté vegetables in olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes
3. Add herbs and spices and continue to cook for two more minutes
4. Add octopus and simmer until octopus has released its liquids
5. Add white wine. If the octopus is not covered with its own juices and wine add enough water to cover
6. Season with salt and simmer until tender, about two hours. Alternately you can braise this covered, in the oven (300f) for two hours or until tender
7. Cut the octopus legs from the body. Cut the body into bite size pieces. You can also rub the black outer membrane to easily remove.
8. Marinate and grill according to the following recipe from greek.food.com below.
1/2 bulb of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
hot pepper sauce, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1. In a small saucepan bring the garlic, balsamic vinegar, pepper sauce, and onion to a boil over medium-high heat
2. Lower heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes
3. Remove from heat and cool the vinegar mixture
4. In a large bowl, whisk the cooled vinegar mixture, capers, and parsley with the olive oil until incorporated.
5. Taste to adjust the seasoning and add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
6. Remove 1/3 of the marinade and reserve for serving after grilling
7. Add octopi to bowl with marinade and toss. Marinate at least 1 hour or overnight
8. Preheat grill on high
9. Grill the octopi for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side
10. Pour the reserved vinaigrette over the octopus and serve
11. Enjoy with friends!
Trendy grilled octopus is found on many menus across Philly’s best restaurants. The most tender and flavorful cephalopod in Philly can be found at Barbuzzo at 110 South 13th Street, Johnny Brenda’s at 1201 Frankford Ave, The Water Works at 640 Water Works Drive, and Estia restaurant at 1405 Locust Street.