Our family has a thing for octopus. As in we love it, tenderly so. In a salad or a stirfry, roasted on the barbecue, name it, one look at those tentacles and we are primed for a group hug.
From the Sichuan Octopus at Chinatown’s Chuan Xiang Qing (top photograph but maybe closed?) to the Greek version at Mile End’s Philinos (terrace featured), octopus has been a favourite food of ours. Even our 5 year-old can’t get enough. Yet, until now, I had always let chefs and restaurants tackle the task.
Everything changed this past Christmas when I finally decided to attempt home-cooked octopus for the first time.
To do so, I turned to the new cookbook Su, La cuisine turque de Fisun Ercan for inspiration (see here for my French review and more recipes).
Then I headed to the Adonis supermarket in Laval for the fresh whole octopus, which my son carried home with pride and joy. And a hint of unease, let’s face it. If at first he was fascinated by the bundle in his hands, kiddo somehow convinced himself it HAD to be a fake octopus, like the toy one next to the bathtub. Only after poking it in the eyes a few times did the truth hit home. The gray blob on his kitchen counter was the real thing. Boys will be boys.
So here is the first of many octopus salads to come. I was so tired from cooking multiple mezes that, by the time I went to bed, I forgot to remove it from its cold liquid. The next morning, the suction cups had a tendency to, hum, shall we slay slough off and stare at you like beady eyes from their salad nest. Zombie time. Don’t imitate me in this regards and you’ll be fine. So let’s get your octopus on?
Note: According to the author, Octopus Salad is customarily served in all meyhane or Turkish cafés.
• 1 whole octopus (450 to 750 g/1 to 1.5 lbs), fresh or thawed
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine vinegar
• 1 L (4 cups) cold water
• 4 green onions, cut into rounds
• 1 cubanella pepper, cut into rounds
• 1 bunch parsley, rough chopped
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tomatoes, large diced
• Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1. In a medium-sized pot over moderate heat, combine whole octopus, vinegar and water, then cook 2 hours. (According to chef Ercan, you can also cook it 35 minutes in a pressure cooker, which I don’t have.) Remove from heat and let cool in the cooking liquid. Avoid going to bed at this time.
2. Once cool, drain well and cut tentacles diagonally into rounds. The author does not specify but I assumed the head had become extraneous and ditched it.
3. Add remaining ingredients, except tomatoes, and chill at least 30 minutes. Around 10 minutes before serving, delicately mix in tomatoes.