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.

Grilled Octopus with Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette | adrunkenduck.com

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.

Grilled Octopus with Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette | adrunkenduck.com

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.

Grilled baby octopus with a lemon-sherry vinaigrette | adrunkenduck.com

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.

Grilled Octopus with Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette | adrunkenduck.com

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.

Fresh baby octopus polipetti | adrunkenduck.com
Yum
Grilled Octopus with Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A delicious grilled octopus salad dressed in a simple and classic Greek style using olive oil, salt, and lemon.
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb baby octopus
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon peppercorns
  • fresh Italian parsley
Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preparation
  1. Prepping the court bouillon: Fill a 2-quart pan about ⅔ full with cold water. Just enough to submerge all of the octopi you're going to poach.
  2. Roughly chop shallot, carrot, celery and add to water. Cut lemon in half, squeeze, and add to water.
  3. Next, add bay leaf, salt, and peppercorns.
  4. Bring water to a boil and lower a simmer. Continue simmering, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low so that only a few bubbles break the surface. We want to very slowly poach the octopus.
  6. Cleaning and tenderizing octopus: If your octopus has not been cleaned by your fishmonger, which is quite unlikely, we want to first remove the contents of the hood or mantle. Remove the hood by cutting below the eyes, separating the tentacles from the bulbous body section. Where the tentacles meet there is a dimple in the center and this contains the mouth parts, or beak, which requires removal. You can pop this hard structure out with your fingers by applying pressure from the backside. You can also use the tip of a paring knife to remove the beak.
  7. Add the cleaned octopus to the simmering court bouillon and cover, cooking for approximately 40 minutes. The octopus will be done with the tip of a sharp knife can be inserted into the underside.
  8. Make vinaigrette: Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a glass blow or jar with a tight-fitting lid and whisk or vigorously shake to combine.
  9. Arrange octopus on serving plater or individual plates, drizzle with vinaigrette, and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon peel.
Notes
To remove the beak from your octopus, turn it over to expose where the tentacles meet. There is a dimple in the center - this contains the mouth parts, or beak, which we want to remove. When you slice each tentacle towards that center dimple, you'll be able to easily find this beak material which we want to discard.