Don’t skip past this post. I know, the idea of cooking an octopus is something straight out of a comedy or in some cases a horror movie, but done correctly this sea creature goes from villain to shear deliciousness to the point it could can compete with more favored sea treats like shrimp and lobster. No, really.
It was Julia Child who said we must be fearless in the kitchen. There is no better advice for a home cook in my opinion. Octopus wasn’t necessarily something I was afraid of but I knew it could go wrong, oh so wrong. Thankfully I had a recipe to guide me. It’s not always about a good recipe. What I find is important is having chefs that I trust, and having tried others of their recipes, helps give me confidence on more daring recipes they offer. This was true with Jose Garces, The Latin Road Home.
I first did his Rabbit, Shrimp, and Lobster Rice Stew. This was enough to show me to put trust in his recipes. I then I made his Scallops with Braised Oxtail and Porridge. This was a huge wow. At that point I had done a couple of his complex menus and recipes so when I came across a recipe for Octopus Ceviche I knew this was a must to try.
First is buying an octopus. Best advice, find a seafood shop that you can trust. You never want to buy iffy seafood. Once you have a great seafood shop it’s time to get your octopus. What you want to look for, unless you live somewhere they are locally caught, is a frozen octopus. I’m not a huge fan of frozen seafood. However, if you live somewhere there are no bodies of water odds are all your seafood is coming in to your fish mongers frozen. This isn’t great for more delicate seafood and fish but it works surprisingly well for the octopus. As for size it seems that fish mongers tend to only sell ones that are somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds, which is exactly what you want.
When you’re finally ready to cook the octopus set it out to thaw. The more natural or gentle you can thaw it the better. I let mine thaw at room temp. I know this can be worrisome for folks but I must confess I am not one who gets so rigid about food safety guidelines. However you want to thaw it is fine as long as you don’t heat it up.
Opening the package it comes in can be messy so make sure you do it in or over your sink. When it’s time to cook it just know that it might feel a little funny and slippery but don’t worry it gets so much better.
Now we need to talk about what your cooking this guy in. Yes, a stock pot. That’s not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is the solution in the stock pot. It’s so much more than just water. Honestly, I would love to know what all the ingredients do and how they interact with the octopus but regardless it turns out amazing!
To Cook the Octopus:
- 1 (12 g.) tablespoon Yellow Mustard Seeds
- 1 (5.7 g.) tablespoon Coriander Seeds
- 1 (2 g.) teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 (128 fl oz.) gallon Water
- ½ cup (Red Wine Vinegar)
- 1 Lemon, halved
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Crushed
- ¼ (3 ounces) cup Salt
- 1 Octopus, 2-3 pounds
Make a spice satchel by putting the mustard, coriander, and red pepper on a piece of cheese cloth. Gather up the sides and tie it shut. (Here’s a handy trick: If you have disposable tea bags for loose tea you can put your spaces into one of these and then put it into a second to ensure no fine spices fall out. This is way easier for me than trying to tie cheese cloth!)
In a large stock pot combine the water, vinegar, spice satchel, lemon, garlic, and salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once at a boil add the octopus. Cook for 30 minutes at a full rolling boil. (One thing to know is that while it’s cooking it will begin to float. Don’t worry about this. It will still cook evenly.)
After the 30 minutes is up, with tongs, remove the octopus. Set on a plate, with a very sharp knife slice off the thickest tentacle, and slice a ¼-inch disc off the the thickest end of that tentacle and taste it for tenderness. If you’re happy with the tenderness let your octopus cool on the plate. If it’s still a little tough add it back to the boiling mixture for 5 minutes and check again.
Once the octopus is tender let cool to room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator over night. Once chilled, cut off all the tentacles and discard the head and beak. Slice the tentacles to use in your ceviche or other cold seafood dish.