Spanish- Style Octopus
Octopus is, for some, one of the most intimidating things to prepare in your home. Typically ordered out because, “they cook it better,” octopus is surprisingly easy to make in your home kitchen, but it does involve a par cooking process and a little more care than a run of the mill protein in a hot pan.
Octopus is rather slippery and seemingly delicate when it is raw, but it can become chewy and lose that tenderness when it cooks. If you search on the internet, “how to tenderize octopus,” chances are you will come up with several old wives tales about wine corks in the water, or beating the octopus into next week. I’ve tried all of them, and I will say the secret is even easier than these methods. The secret is simmering your octopus in moderately salted water before letting it marinate and before you grill it on the pan. This light cooking process allows the proteins in the octopus to delicately cook and loosen up, maintaining its tender and soft texture. The goal is to never boil the octopus as this will tighten and overcook the octopus. Rather, the goal is to maintain a light simmer for the duration of the par-cooking time. In my experience, simmering for 30-45 minutes is sufficient to tenderize and cook the octopus.
After the octopus is cooked, it’s important for the octopus to cool down before marinating or seasoning it. I place it in a bowl or plate and refrigerate it for at least a couple hours. Once it has cooled I make a light Spanish inspired marinade with lemon juice, smoked paprika, coriander, salt and pepper. If the marinade is too dry, add a touch of olive oil which should make the marinade easier to grip the octopus. You should make a small amount as you are looking to really just coat the octopus not drown it. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes again.
The last step in cooking your octopus is to pan fry it quickly to get some char and texture on the octopus. Since the octopus is already cooked, you don’t need to worry about monitoring the internal temperature to achieve doneness. This step is purely to get the beautifully charred outside and to quickly warm it up before serving. A perfectly cooked octopus will give you kitchen kudos from all your guests- this presentation is a knock-out and will impress everyone.
My favorite pairing with this dish is a simple salad and some grilled or sauteed vegetables. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can use this in your tapas spread, or as an appetizer for a full Spanish meal complete with paella.
- 1 Tablespoon Full Circle Ghee Traditional
- Octopus (2-4 pounds), whole, cleaned and debeaked
- 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp. salt, for marinade. Extra salt for water.
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. coriander; ground
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Start by cleaning your octopus, if it wasn’t cleaned by your fishmonger, by removing the innards, eyes, and beak. These are all fairly easy to do and there are numerous tutorials available online.
- Put a pot of moderately salted water to boil. I typically add enough salt to make it taste like ocean water- similar to the salinity of pasta cooking water.
- Once it has hit a boil, dip your octopus in the water a couple times. This will cause the tentacles to curl up in its typical fashion. After about three dips, place the entirety of the octopus in the water and turn the heat down to low. The goal is to keep the water at a low simmer. Adjust the heat to achieve this. You’re looking at cooking the octopus for about 30-45 minutes depending on the size.
- When the octopus has cooked, drain it and let it cool. Letting the octopus cool will help the marinade stick more effectively onto the skin.
- After the cooling, make a quick marinade of lemon juice, smoked paprika, pepper, salt, oregano, and a little olive oil if it’s too stiff. Mix the octopus with this marinade and let sit for an additional 20-30 minutes.
- At the tail end of the marinating time, heat up a skillet or saute pan to medium- high heat. Once warm, add a tablespoon of ghee and let it liquify and warm.
- Add your marinated octopus to the pan and let it sear/ char for about 3 minutes per side; 6 minutes total.
- You should see the blackened and charring on the outside of the octopus. When you want to serve, remove it from the pan and place on the plate- no cutting required. If you really want to let your guests see the succulent nature of the octopus, let them cut it themselves. Cutting and plating the octopus beforehand signals a cover-up of how much octopus you are actually paying for.