Octopus is everywhere, so it’s a global ingredient. The preparations country by country are all diverse and delicious in their own unique ways. Hot, cold, warm – it doesn’t matter. Kimchee tako poke, ensalada de pulpo, escabeche, takoyaki, nakji bokkeum, ceviche de pulpo… it’s all good. This week, we’ll be preparing a healthy, and equally delicious octopus spring salad.
Going from square one right off the boat or kayak, octopus cleaning and preparation can be intimidating. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that they are slimy and slippery; you just have to get in there. From separating the mantel to removing the beak to cleaning to breaking down and tenderizing, it’s a new learning curve. Things can go sideways quickly if the end result isn’t tender. There are all sorts of suggested techniques, from soaking it in milk, to slow cooking in the oven at low heat, to pounding, to simmering. That said, preparing a raw octopus is a whole ‘nother write-up and right now we’re just focusing on the octopus and the recipe.
On a positive note, because our amazing local fishmongers are so customer oriented, most people will just pay for prepared octopus that’s already tenderized and cooked by the pros. It’s clean, fresh, prepared, and ready to be turned into whatever is on your menu. That’s what’s going on today.
Next Recipe: Rockfish Pilaf with Chard
Because octopus is so mild in flavor, it’s really just a texture thing and it serves as a vehicle to carry whatever flavors you want to taste. So, whether you want to take the Octopus to Portugal, Italy, Greece, Japan, Spain, Hawaii, Korea, Mexico, or elsewhere, it’ll serve you well. As long as you have tender octopus, it’s pretty hard to mess it up. In other words, it’s forgiving.
While I love all of the intense flavors that most popular preparations kick out, today is going to be light, bright, and packing a different kind of punch. The sun’s out, the garden is popping, and the fish are biting, which means Spring is here and we’re feeling it. It’s going to have char-grilled flavor mixed with a little sweet, a little bitter, a little acid, and a little heat. You’re not going to get super full, so my suggestion is serving this as an appetizer, and then go from there. As always, no rules… feel free to run with this recipe in any direction you want. I’ve got the suggestions, but in the end, it’s your vision. Final chef’s note – if you have larger pieces (i.e., whole legs), I recommend editing the recipe heavily to showcase the octopus. Perhaps narrow it down to octopus, frisée, fennel, oranges, and the dressing. If you have a high quality, whole ingredient, don’t hide it. In some cases, less is certainly more.
Recipe: Octopus Spring Salad