For the longest time, I was hesitant to prepare octopus. I absolutely love having grilled octopus in restaurants when it’s done to perfection. However, I also had my disappointments with a number of (pricey) rubbery Octopus dishes and this is why I was afraid to prepare it myself.
In the end, I knew that I just had to summoned the courage to fit it into my repertoire because both my husband and I are crazy about it.
While doing my research I saw a video tutorial by none other than Chef Helena Loureiro, owner of 3 great restaurants in Montreal, one of which is one of my ultimate favorite and is called simply “Helena”.
Truthfully, it turned out to be one of the easiest types of fish to cook in my opinion. It was absolutely melt-in-your mouth tender and incredibly delicious!! The trick is to simply braise it in a fragrant broth over medium heat for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of your octopus) in a flavourful broth and then to sear it about 2 minutes on the grill until it develops a crunchy exterior.
It’s important to buy the octopus raw and frozen because, according to many chefs I researched, frozen actually cooks up more tender than fresh and the freezing and thawing process starts the tenderizing part.
So here a step-by-step guide on how it’s done:
You buy the octopus frozen and it looks like the picture below. I let it taw in the fridge about 24 hours in a big Ziploc bag:
Once thawed, wash the octopus thoroughly by running it under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel:
Slice off the head, and flip the octopus around to remove the beak (it looks like a little bit like bird’s beak), which you’ll find right in the middle of all the legs:
In a big pan with a lid, bring your broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and bring to a simmer. (broth recipe below):
Chef Helena tells us that the trick to make sure that the octopus won’t be rubbery is to do this process 3 times: drop the octopus in the simmering broth, count to 3 and then remove it from the water for another 3 seconds. The chef says that this contrast between hot and cold breaks the octopus’ elasticity and makes it tender. Then you leave it in the broth and let simmer, covered for about 45 minutes, depending on the size of your octopus (if you have a larger size octopus of more than 2 lbs, you probably will want to let it simmer for at least 1h00-1h30). The octopus is ready when you can insert a fork in the meat without resistance.
Once the braising is done, remove the octopus from the broth (discard the broth). When it’s cool enough to handle, run the octopus under water to remove the purple coating. Once braised and washed, the octopus looks like this:
In a glass container, mix all the ingredients for the marinade (recipe below),cut off the legs of the octopus by criss-crossing to the center (everything is edible at that point) and throw everything in the container. Let marinate in the fridge for 3 to 6 hours.
Heat up your grill to high. Remove the octopus from the marinade (but keep it to drizzle over the octopus after grilling). Grill the tentacles about 2-3 minutes.
I like to serve the grilled octopus over mixed greens and oven baked cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and capers with a drizzle of marinade over top.
- -2 small octopus (about 600 grams -or 1 ¼ lbs- each)
- -mixed greens
- -10 small cherry tomatoes, yellow and red
- -1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
- -1 tablespoon capers
- -1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- -1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- -1 lemon, sliced
- -4 whole garlic cloves
- -1 yellow onion, quartered, skin on (just like Chef Helena does)
- -1 red bell pepper, sliced
- -1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- -1 teaspoon dried thyme
- -1 teaspoon dried oregano
- -1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- -2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- -1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- - Zest of 1 lemon
- -1 green onion, minced
- -1 garlic clove, minced
- -1 teaspoon oregano
- - Salt and pepper to taste
- Let the octopus thaw overnight in the fridge.
- Heat a big pot and add oil and brown the lemon slices a bit. Then add garlic, the onion, peppercorns, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme and basil. Deglaze with white wine vinegar. Add enough additional water to just barely cover the octopus. Once the liquid is boiling, add coarse sea salt. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer.
- Then do this process 3 times: drop the octopus in the simmering broth, count to 3 and then remove it from the water for another 3 seconds. Finally leave the octopus in the water to simmer for about 45 minutes. Now this time vary according to the size of your octopus and can go up to 2 hours of simmering. You will know if the octopus is ready when you can insert a fork in the meat without resistance.
- Once the braising is done, remove the octopus from the broth (discard the broth). When it's cool enough to handle, with your hands, remove the purple skin if desired.
- Cut all the pieces by criss-crossing in the middle to get separate tentacles
- In glass container, mix all the ingredients for the marinade and throw in all your tentacles in the bag. Let marinate in the fridge for 3 to 6 hours.
- Meanwhile , on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, arrange the tomatoes, olives and capers drizzled with the olive oil. Bake at 350 F about 20 minutes. then set aside until ready to use.
- Remove the tentacles from marinade (reserve the marinade).
- Heat up your grill to high. Grill the tomato skewers and lemon quarts and the tentacles about 2-3 minutes on both sides.
- Arrange some mixed greens on a plate and divide the cooled grilled tomatoes, olive and capers over the greens. Put a few of the tentacles on top and drizzle with the reserved marinade.
- You can keep the leftovers about a week in the fridge for future use. (Keep the marinade as well!)