Do you need a fancy recipe for date night? A romantic dinner for two? Are your in-laws or boss coming over for dinner, and you need to impress? Periodically, Champagne Tastes will be featuring ‘Gourmet’ recipes. These will still be budget friendly and relatively simple, but will help you confidently serve a gourmet meal without hiring a chef.
Are you feeling adventurous? Let’s talk octopus. That’s right, those eight-legged sea monsters that spend their days looking like they’ve escaped from a Jules Verne novel. The spineless, fascinating creatures that can fit through any space they can squeeze their jaw bones through. Well, my friends, those leggy beasts are also completely and utterly delicious. The husband talked me into buying one on a Jungle Jim’s trip, and that’s how our invertebrate obsession began. This recipe for Lemon Pepper Octopus is easy, and sure to leave you with a tender and flavor-packed meal.
Here’s the thing about octopus– it can either melt in your mouth, or taste like little bits of rubber if overcooked. If you’ve ever had calamari, you’ve already eaten squid. Octopus has a similar texture. As with calamari, if your octopus is chewy, it’s probably been overcooked. It should fall apart in your mouth.
Making Lemon Pepper Octopus
This octopus is cooked twice– once braised on the stove top in wine and water to tenderize it, and then cooked very quickly on a grill at high heat or quickly pan seared. It should take anywhere from about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to prepare start to finish, but most of that is very hands-off. I find it’s easier (if I’ve planned ahead), to braise it the day before, and then just grill or pan sear it quickly before dinner the next day.
Either serve one octopus per person, or cut it into pieces and divide them up between plates. This recipe is for 1 lb – 1 1/2 lbs of octopus and serves 2, but you can easily double the recipe as long as your pot is big enough. This Lemon Pepper Octopus on its own probably won’t fill you up, but it’s incredibly flavorful. Serve it quickly while it’s still piping hot with pasta tossed in a little cream and butter, or with Forbidden Rice*. Dig in and enjoy your deliciously adventurous dinner.
Note: If you’re serving your octopus with a grain or legume that cooks in water or broth (like rice or lentils), save the liquid from braising the octopus and use that instead of the broth! You might need to add a little salt to taste. You could do this with pasta water too, but be aware that the dark octopus stock might dye your pasta a little darker (the dye-effect won’t be as noticeable with a dark grain or legume).
Also Note: When you search for octopus recipes, there will be lots of wives’ tales about putting corks or coins in the water with your octopus. Go ahead and do it if you want, but mine has always turned out perfectly without doing any of that.
Want more seafood? Try this:
Lemon Pepper Octopus
- •1 - 1 1/2 lbs octopus (either 2 smaller or 1 larger octopus)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 TB minced garlic
- 1 TB olive oil
- lemon or orange wedges for serving
In a large heavy pot (such as a cast iron Dutch oven), place octopus, wine, peppercorns, lemon cut in half, salt, bay leaves, and garlic. Add water until octopus is covered with water by 1" (or try-- it will float).
Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce to simmer, and cook octopus until tender. Cook time will depend on the size of your octopus- a half pound octopus should take about 40 minutes, and a 1 lb may take closer to 55 minutes. Octopus is done when you can pierce the skin easily with a fork or knife. Do NOT continue to cook- overcooked octopus becomes rubbery.
Drain and allow octopus to come to room temperature, OR replace lid and place in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook (cook within a day).
Preheat a charcoal grill to high heat. Brush octopus with olive oil. Grill on very hot grill until browned- about 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon or orange wedges.
To pan sear:
Heat olive oil on medium high heat until oil ripples. Sear octopus about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon or orange wedges.
Recipe adapted from: Serious Eats