Tender grilled baby octopus seasoned with a simple lemon-sherry vinaigrette. Grilled octopus is a classic Greek seafood dish that’s easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious.
Similar in flavor to calamari, octopus has firm white flesh that’s tasty and sweet. When well tenderized, octopus has a slightly chewy bite to it. Grilling adds a nice seared or char flavor and requires only a simple dressing with a fruity, high-quality olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a little acidity from lemons and sherry vinegar.
Serve this visually stunning and very healthy seafood dish as a light summer meal for two or as an appetizer for four.
First tenderized by slowly poaching in a court bouillon of aromatic vegetables and spices, grilled octopus couldn’t be easier to prepare. There’s nothing about it that should be intimidating. This is again another case of keeping it simple to bring out the best flavor.
And once tenderizing is done, a quick pass over a hot grill adds an additional layer of delicious char flavor. If you don’t have an open flame grill you can certainly break out a cast iron skillet and achieve excellent tasting results.
With a patriotic Greek in the house… uh, that would be Yanni… there’s definitely an air of excitement when it’s been decided that today is grilled octopus day.
Since the two of us are huge seafood lovers, deciding that we’re in the mood for octopus comes about super quick. You’ll hear zero arguments about cleaning, grilling and eating our own octopus. Yanni and I are both dorky armchair history buffs and love any kind of connection to ancient Mediterranean ingredients and cooking. Certainly Greek recipes, and most definitely insanely delicious octopus.
First tenderized by slowly poaching in a court bouillon of aromatic vegetables and spices, grilled octopus is terribly easy to prepare but requires a little patience. If you’ve ever had tough, rubbery octopus it’s likely it wasn’t properly tenderized.
A quick sear on a grill adds a delicious and slight char flavor. If you don’t have an open flame grill you can certainly break out a cast iron skillet and achieve excellent results.
When it comes time to drop our octopus into the court bouillon, we will see that they quickly firm up and reduce in size as soon as they hit the hot poaching liquid. The tentacles, which at first seem long and unruly, curl and become thicker. Also, the color of the octopus darkens to a deeper shade of reddish-grey.
The octopus we buy are caught in the waters off of Spain, flash frozen, flown to New York, and then thawed before being put on display. Also, in almost all cases, the octopus will have been cleaned and pre-tenderized. Slow poaching in a court bouillon further extends that tendering process and imparts another layer of flavor.
Cleaning Baby Octopus
Cleaning and prepping baby octopus is remarkably easy. All of the octopus we purchase from our fishmonger have been cleaned. However, we still need to clean the hood, discarding it’s contents, and separate it from the tentacles, also removing the beak. The beak of an octopus is a hard, tiny and inedible structure located inside the dimple that’s centered just at the point where the tentacles meet.
You can either remove the beak with a small knife by dividing the tentacles in half or, after separating the hood, press the middle spot behind the dimple and pop out the beak with your fingers. How you do this really depends upon the way in which you want to cook and plate your grilled octopus.
The first step is to separate the bulb shaped hood and eyes from the tentacles. We usually don’t bother with the heads as they are not as flavorful, but they are certainly edible. To clean the hood, first separate from the tentacles with your knife. Make a small slit in the bottom edge of the head and turn it inside out, removing the interior material. You’ll end up with almost a little cup.