Labor Day is knocking at the door, and summer will be over officially over in a week! This weekend is a great time to gather your gang for one more cookout and toast the season good-by.
We’ve grilled plenty of steaks, burgers, hot dogs, salmon, corn, mussels, clams, salmon, stone fruit, melons, and even watermelon. In fact it seems that we’ve grilled everything already. But wait! There is one thing I haven’t - and I bet you haven’t either… Octopus!
Now, don’t be squeamish, octopi are delicious when prepared properly. The problem is a great deal of folks just don’t know how to do so. Yes, it is rather odd looking - but c’mon - so is an egg when you think about it! Whoever first ate an egg was a brave soul indeed. At least an octopus is seafood, and you know where an egg comes from…
That being said, you love Calamari, don’t you? You do know it’s squid, right?
Okay then, since we’ve eradicated any fear in eating it, let’s do the same with preparing it!
The first and essential step to ensure that the octopus is tender is to braise it. I like to do so in a dry white wine. This is actually where the cooking actually takes place, the grilling adds flavor to the already prepared tentacles. In fact, the braising can be done the day before your guests arrive, and then removed from the braising liquid, covered, then refrigerated. (Allow them to come to room temperature before grilling.)
I like to give a bit of hardiness to the dish by also making a Grilled Rustic Crouton - using a nice baguette sliced on the bias, brushed with olive oil and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic.
A great accompaniment are a slice of fresh Fennel and Shoshito Peppers, they too are grilled alongside the octopus.
Drizzled with a nice Sherry Vinaigrette and a squeeze of Fresh Lemon, and you’ve a splendid first course that is delicious, unusual, and really very easy!
NOTE: Octopus will shrink upon briasing
Grilled Octopus and Shoshito Peppers
Serves: 4, Prep Time: Less than 2 hours, Serves: 6
3 pounds cleaned octopus
2 - 3 cups of white wine, or water
1 bay leaf
1 Teaspoon paprika
4 thyme branches
¼ each of diced onion, diced celery, and diced ham
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 head of garlic, cut in half through its equator
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the octopus, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt, the garlic, and 1 of the lemons, cut in half, in a saucepan along with the wine, or water, to cover. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers slowly and cook until the octopus is tender, 30 to 90 minutes (check with the point of a sharp knife). Drain, discarding all the solids (except for the octopus). You can prepare this 24 hours in advance up to this point; coat with olive oil and and a little lemon juice, cover and refrigerate the octopus.
Start a charcoal or wood fire or preheat a gas grill; the fire should be quite hot and the grill rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Cut the octopus into large serving pieces, brush it with half the olive oil, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Grill it quickly, so that the outside browns before the inside dries out.
Simultaneously, grill the Shoshito Peppers, which you’ve already cleaned and coated with olive oil, and the Sliced Baguette.
Cut the remaining lemon into wedges. Place Grilled Baguette on a plate, then the Grilled Fennel, placing 2 or 3 Tentacles on top. Garnish with Grilled Shoshito Peppers, and drizzle with Sherry Vinaigrette. Place remaining lemons for squeezing.