Grilled Octopus is a favorite on menus all across the country but people tell me that they are afraid to try to prepare it at home. I thought that would be a great topic for my show and my latest book so I enlisted the help of Dave Pasternack, the chef at Esca, an extraordinary seafood restaurant in NYC. Here is a quick summary of Dave’s tips. You’ll find a more detailed explanation for each and the recipe for Dave’s Warm Grilled Octopus Salad on pages 85 through 87 in “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better.”
When buying octopus: Both fresh and frozen octopus are delicious; if you purchase fresh, put it in the freezer overnight and it will be even better. The best octopus comes from Portugal but octopus from Spain and Greece are also good. Size doesn’t matter but cooking time will vary by size and variety; it is important for it to be tender.
To prepare grilled octopus: Frozen octopus will come cleaned and fresh octopus should be cleaned for you at the fish market when you buy it. Make sure each tentacle has two rows of suction cups. Cut each octopus in half and simmer, uncovered, in a large pot of unsalted water with several (real) wine corks until the tip of a knife easily cuts through it. Chill the octopus in a flavorful vinaigrette for several hours, then grill 4 to 6 minutes on each side.