The octopus, a well-known delicacy and Greek cuisine staple, is a lot easier to cook than most people believe! My Way of preparing this tasty mollusk involves no fuss and squeamishness . . . . and I promise, you will forever enjoy succulently tender and aromatic octopus which may be served either as a meze, with ouzo or tsipouro, or as an exotic main course, with a glass of chilled dry white wine!
For home use, I would recommend buying frozen rather than fresh octopus as freezing tenderizes its tough meat.
Here are my two basic ways to cook octopus, once defrosted:
Place the rinsed octopus in a pot with a lid, with a little bit of water, and leave it to braise it in its own juices, over low heat, for as long as necessary.
Oven-roast the rinsed octopus with herbs, lemons, peppercorns drizzled with a little olive oil in a sealed parchment paper pouch (or oven-proof pot) in a hot oven, covered with lid, until cooked.
Personally, I prefer the oven method as it has one great advantage over the first method; lovely aromas versus the rather off-putting smell that results from the braising method! In any case, both methods of cooking concentrate the flavors and produce a deliciously tender octopus!
The cooking time will of course depend on the size of the octopus but generally I always check whether it’s done after an hour or so of cooking as overcooked octopus will dry out, toughen and become tasteless!
To check whether the octopus is cooked, insert the sharp point of a thin-bladed knife into the flesh of the octopus and when it meets little resistance, it’s done (just like a boiled potato)!
I love cooked octopus so I make this dish all year round but here in Greece, octopus is very popular during lent when I serve this dish as a main course with steamed vegetables or a nice green salad and crusty white bread . . . . . and of course with a lent must, Taramosalata (fish roe dip).
Oven Roasted Octopus
1 - 1 ½ kg (2.2 – 3lb) frozen whole Octopus
1 large bunch celery herb (Selino)*
2 lemons – thinly sliced
2 - 4 bay leaves
Extra virgin Olive oil
Dried oregano - to taste
6 – 8 Peppercorns – whole
2 large sheets of parchment paper
Once thawed out, wash and trim Octopus. Using a large roasting tin (or a Pyrex dish), spread out two sheets of parchment paper and lay celery (Selino) and half of the lemon slices plus two bay leaves in the center. Top with whole octopus, tentacles wrapped underneath, making it look like a small ball.
Drizzle octopus with a little olive oil & sprinkle with dried oregano. Top with remaining lemon slices, bay leaves and peppercorns. Gather up the edges of the parchment paper and seal to make a small parcel. Secure well to avoid juices from escaping during cooking. I sometimes put an extra layer of aluminum foil under the parchment paper for an extra strong pouch and a heavy lid on top of parcel to ensure the parcel won’t open during cooking!
Place in hot oven (200 C or 400 F) and roast for about 1 ¼ - 1 ½ hour. Test for doneness after an hour and if just about ready, turn off the oven and leave Octopus in sealed parchment paper parcel to cool.
Serve whole in parchment paper parcel (just open it up) with juices or slice and serve with lemons and herbs from parcel and some extra lemon/olive oil dressing on the side.
Yield: 4 – 6 servings
If you like, add some sliced red onions and a little garlic to the recipe.
Selino – celery herb, is available at all farmer’s markets here in Greece, however, if not available in your area, replace with a few celery stalks with leaves.
Play around with the type of pepper you use. If you like it hot, add some crushed pepper with chili flakes or whatever else you may like!
© KaritasM – February 2018