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three ways to cook an octopus


April 2015

Written by
Lauren Hunsberger


Octopus photosThe octopus, especially in the Pacific Northwest, is an animal of mythical proportion, and stories surrounding its monster-like tendencies have swirled around in folklore for centuries. Food & Wine magazine, however, says there is no reason to fear this cephalopod. In fact, they recently touted it as the new “it” food: “Octopus is on a wave of coolness. ... It’s the new L.A. protein.” Octopus is also a surprisingly easy dish to cook. The hardest part is achieving a tender, versus tough or chewy, texture. Read ahead for three go-to techniques for getting a hook into how to cook this adventurous dinner option.

Red Wine–Braised Octopus

Braising octopus is one of the most popular cooking methods. It is also a fairly simple procedure. Using a saucepan, sauté a few stock vegetables of your choice (one onion, one large carrot and two garlic cloves) in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, one bay leaf and lower heat to a simmer. In a separate skillet, sauté two pounds of cleaned octopus cut into two-inch pieces in olive oil. Cook until brown. Add two cups of dry red wine and simmer for eight to 10 minutes. Then, pour the octopus-wine mixture into the vegetable pot. Simmer until the octopus is tender, about one hour. Serve with toasted bread.

OctopusGrilled Octopus

Grilling octopus adds a nice smoky flavor. However, it is still important to cook the meat prior to grilling to ensure a tender final dish. To do so, in a large saucepan, cover two pounds of cleaned whole octopus (either a few baby octopuses or one large octopus) with water. Add a generous amount of cracked pepper, a teaspoon of salt, one quartered lemon, one bay leaf and other aromatics of your choice (oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.). Let simmer for 90 minutes. Heat your grill to high. Coat the octopus in olive oil, and grill for a few minutes until you’ve reached your desired level of crisp.

Pan-Fried Octopus

Calamari lovers will love this method. Baby octopus is best for frying. For this recipe, the easiest way to tenderize the meat is with a simple brine. However, because octopus is naturally salty, you only need to dissolve about two tablespoons of salt into four cups of water. Using a large saucepan, make the brine, then add the octopus and let it sit, refrigerated, for at least two hours. When ready to fry, pat the octopus dry, and dredge it with flour. Heat a bottle of vegetable oil in a large saucepan on medium-high. Carefully place a few octopuses at a time into the oil, and cook for about five minutes. Top with lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Chef Chris PetersonDon’t Want to Risk It?

If you are not adventurous enough to cook your own, Bellevue Club Executive Chef Chris Peterson recommends trying the dish at Joule in Seattle, where it is served with bok choy and hot bacon vinaigrette. While he typically prefers diners eat at Polaris or Splash, he says octopus won’t be making the menu any time soon. 

odd octopus facts

Octopuses have the ability to regenerate tentacles if they lose one during a predatory attack.

Octopuses can mimic both the color and shape of their environment to avoid predators.

Octopuses are thought to have two types of memory, one that belongs to the cups and one to the brain, making them the most intelligent invertebrate 
on Earth.



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