The Great Grilled Octopus Experiment

The phone rings. After a brief salutation, Dom asks, “How do you feel about octopus?” To which I replied, “the entire species or on a dinner plate?” Given that this is a food blog, I think you know his response. Thus began the octopus experiment.

Dom arrived home with the 5-foot-long beast. Thank goodness it had been cleaned at the market, so that part of the adventure was preempted. Feeling like Captain Nemo and his crew battling the poulpe (French for "octopus”), we managed to wield the cephalopod into a giant stock pot filled halfway with water, and adding three wine corks, brought the creature to a boil. Why the corks? Many theorize that tartaric acid (cream of tartar) collects on wine corks as wine ages in the bottle. This is a naturally occurring substance that is part of the wine fermentation process. Admittedly, we are quite skeptical on the whole cork thing , but both Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich swear by them so at least we are in good company.

Surprisingly, the simmering octopus smelled wonderful; kind of like fried shrimp or scallops. They are what they eat as the maxim supposes.  When it was time to drain the water from the octopus’ boiling bath, it was interesting to see that it had become more firm, had shrunk considerably, and had dyed the water a deep shade of lilac. What was even more notable was how much more the octopus shrank before it was served. The original weight of the cleaned octopus was approximately 10 pounds and we estimated that grilled octopus yielded about 2½-3 pounds of meat; succulent and well-worth-the-effort meat.

1 octopus, cleaned
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground

Place octopus in cold water with a cork and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer at a low boil for 30 minutes to tenderize.

Drain the octopus and place in a French oven or covered baking dish with the butter and ½ cup water and braise in a 325°F oven for one hour.

Once the octopus pieces are cooled enough to handle, toss with the teriyaki and marinade until the grill is ready. Place the octopus on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. The octopus should be crispy and slightly charred. Allow to cool before slicing into bit-sized pieces and serving.