Can’t tell you how happy I am! My new kitchen is finally finished–after too many days of dust and disruption. Yes! Now I can entertain again.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Sharing my food with friends.
One of the first dishes I decided to cook after being away from the stove for so long — was “spicy octopus with yogurt and herbs.” And it’s become a real favorite. Tender and tangy, everyone seems to love it.
This isn’t the typical Greek version, seasoned with lemon, oregano, vinegar and olive oil and then grilled. No, this is totally different.
The tastes here are bolder and yet somehow more refined. Subtle hints of the Southeast Asian mix of hot, sour, salty, and sweet in an “attention-grabbing” glaze give a complex dimension to the octopus. Some smokyness is added when the well-glazed tentacles get a good sear.
To me, its addictively delicious! And it looks good on the plate too.
What’s even better, it’s ridiculously easy to make. It really is. First you braise. Then you sear. That’s it. Actually, the octopus is fully cooked after the braise. But don’t stop there — give it that final glazed sear!
Spicy Charred Octopus
Here’s what you’ll need to make the dish:
For the braise:
1 1/2 gallons water
2 lemons, cut in half and squeezed
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 bay leaves
3 to 4 lb. octopus (just get the 8 tentacles)
For the spicy glaze:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1″ piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup Sambal Oelek chili paste
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
For the plate:
2 cups torn fresh herbs and baby greens
(basil, mint, cilantro, watercress, arugula
and maybe some thinly sliced fennel)
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
A very good olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Combine all the braise ingredients in a large pot, except the octopus. Bring to a boil and then holding the tentacles with tongs dip them into the boiling water 3 times, leaving them submerged for 3-5 seconds each time. After the final dip, put the octopus back in the pot and cook, partially covered, for 60 minutes. Transfer to a sheet pan to cool.
(Once cooled the octopus can be held in the fridge for up to two days. But I usually do the braise the day before I want to make the dish.)
While the octopus is braising, make the spicy glaze by putting all the ingredients a small bowl and blitzing with an immersion blender. The glaze can be made up to one week in advance, just cover and chill.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. (Take the octopus out of the fridge 1/2 hour before, separate the tentacles and cut into equal lengths.) Splash some olive oil over the tentacles, season with salt and pepper. Then sear, turning from time to time, until charred, 8-10 minutes. Brush with glaze, turning occasionally, until well caramelized, about five minutes. Remove from the heat and add olive oil to coat.
Finally, toss the herb salad with the lime juice and a discrete splash of olive oil. Smear a large dollop of yogurt across each plate, top with octopus and a handful of salad, then drizzle some glaze around the plate.
This is a recipe for four: serve two tentacles per plate as an entree. Or one per as a first course and save the rest for the next night. Maybe serve them sliced with pasta, olives, capers and a light tomato sauce.