Monday, August 26, 2013

The Night of the Grilled Octopus

Originally, I intended to make sushi. And thus made a little trip to The Lobster Place to acquire some sushi grade ingredients. Until I spotted the most attractive, the most purple, the most curly piece of sushi grade octopus. It was sitting there on its little piece of ice, just dying to be photographed. And then eaten.

I have a minor obsession with octopus. They are picturesque. They are among my favorite objects to draw. They are decorative. (By the way, it looks like the retail industry is of the same opinion; as of recently I am noticing a proliferation of octopus-themed plates, paper weights, notepads and file folders.) But most of all, octopus is tasty! There will be no sushi tonight.

I will forever remember the long summers I spent as a kid on the Croatian island of Hvar, living with a family of fisherman. In the lazy afternoons we would sit on a riva (Croatian for shore), snacking on a small plate of grilled octopus, dipping the bread into the drizzles of olive oil and vinegar, and sipping some cold bevanda (wine mixed generously with water). Yes, back then kids were allowed an occasional sip of bevanda. Judged by my example, it did not cause any permanent damage, except for imprinting the life lasting appreciation for simple pleasures.

There will be no sushi tonight!

Grilled Octopus Tapas

* 1/2 lb boiled octopus tentacles (see note)
* 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
* 1/2 tbsp good quality red vinegar
* 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 tsp minced garlic
* 1/2 tbsp minced parsley (optional)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Cut the tentacles into ¾ inch pieces.

2. Preheat the grill or broiler and position the rack about 5 inches from the heat. Grill the octopus for about 5 minutes, turning once, until it is gently charred.

3. Put the sliced octopus in a bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well. If needed adjust the seasoning. Divide in small plates or bowls and serve.

Serves 4

A note on boiling the octopus: If you do not happen to be as fortunate as I was and need to take care of the animal yourself, a couple of things to remember. Make sure that the octopus is cleaned and its insides are removed from the head. I try to stay away from this task as much as possible and always outsource it to the fishmonger. I love food, but there are boundaries that cannot be crossed.

You then want to tenderize your creature a bit. You can do so by slapping it repeatedly against a rock, you could use a brick, or as they like to do it in Sicily, dip it repeatedly into boiling water. In the home setting, I sort of prefer the latter approach, though the former ones are an excellent anger management therapy.

In a large pot bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Dip the octopus, tentacles first, into the boiling water and hold it in the water for a couple of seconds, then take it out. Repeat the ritual two more times. Now you can return your octopus into the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook it for about 75 minutes. Remember to keep the heat low, because a long slow simmer is the road to tenderness. When the octopus is done (use your judgment, a fork, or taste a piece), remove the pot from the heat, and let the octopus cool completely in the water.


  1. I must say that you certainly know how to make an octopus look beautiful…wonderful photos.

    1. Thank you... I love octopuses, find them really cute :)


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