With Greek Clean Monday two days away, I had to post my favourite octopus recipe. It took me a long time to overcome my fear of cooking octopus. I always thought it was one of the most difficult to cook treasures of the sea. But thanks to my mom, I came to realise that cooking octopus is not such a big deal as long as you braise it first before it hits the grill.
This is one of my favourite ways of cooking octopus. I first braise it in an aromatic liquid with oranges, lemons and herbs, then marinate it in a citrusy, sweet dressing and forget about it for a couple of days. To finish it off I cook it in a hot pan until nicely charred and caramelised and drizzle it with the remaining dressing before serving. It’s foolproof and absolutely delicious.
Ingredients for braising
- 1 large octopus (about 1 ½ kg)
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 yellow onion, halved (no need to peel it)
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed but left whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 thyme sprigs
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 cup white wine
For the marinade/dressing
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 Tbs lemon zest
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 Tbs honey
- 1 Tbs dijon mustard
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed but left whole
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the octopus in a large pot together with all the braising ingredients. Add enough water, just to cover everything. Cover the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer with the lid on for about one hour until octopus is tender. Don’t overbraise the octopus otherwise it may become spongy. Cut off a tentacle and cut a small piece. If it cuts easily then it’s ready. From my experience one hour should be enough.
While octopus is braising, prepare the marinade/dressing by mixing together all the ingredients. Drain the octopus and discard braising liquid everything else in the pot. Cut tentacles and half the head lengthwise. Use a knife to scrape off the skin and octopus «fat» . Alternatively you can rub off the skin using kitchen paper.
Put the cleaned octopus in a plastic zip-lock bag. Pour in half of the marinade. Remove as much air as possible from the plastic bag and close the zip. Place in a bowl (in case the plastic bag leaks) and keep in the fridge for 24-48 hours. Keep the other half of the marinade in a sealed container, in the fridge.
Remove octopus from the fridge, at least one hour before cooking so that it comes to room temperature. Remove octopus from it’s marinade; Keep marinade in a bowl. Discard garlic cloves. Heat a griddle pan over medium-high heat. Place the octopus in the pan and cook, turning a few times until it starts to colour and caramelize. While it cooks add its marinade, a tablespoon at a time. The marinade will evaporate and coat the tentacles as they cook. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve octopus in a platter. Take the reserved marinade from the fridge and discard the garlic. Drizzle some of this marinade on the octopus and serve the remaining along side so that your guests can help themselves. Add a squeeze of lemon on the octopus and serve at once.