Charred and crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. Octopus is not only easy to cook, but it is also great for feeding a crowd. If you don’t have eight people at your dinner table, no problem. Cooked octopus makes great leftovers.
Plancha may seem like a fancy word, but all you need is a heavy-bottomed cast iron griddle. If you don’t have a plancha, no worries. Just use a cast iron pan.
This recipe is a three-day process. The octopus needs time to marinate and soak in all the goodness of the Spiced Orange Rub. On Day 2, you’ll make the Pumpkin Romesco. And on the last day, you’ll make the Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette, sear the chicories and octopus, and assemble the dish.
Day 1: Cook the Octopus, Make the Spiced Orange Rub & Marinate the Octopus
Cook the Octopus
Everyone has their own way of cooking octopus. Some put corks in the water, some put a penny, some sous vide, some simmer it in a flavorful liquid, some use no liquid at all. Some beat the octopus legs with a rolling pin, while others massage salt into the legs to tenderize them. The variations are endless.
As someone who has worked for many chefs, I can tell you I’ve used all these methods. I prefer the less-is-more approach because octopus has really great flavor as is. The rub we’ll use as a marinade will be plenty fine. If you know how to boil water, you know how to cook octopus.
Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Cook Time: 2 to 3 hours
- 1 each, 3 lb. octopus
- Water, as needed
- Salt, as needed
Step by Step
- On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to remove the head of the octopus. You can freeze and save the head to cook another time because it’s the legs we’re after for this recipe.
- Next, cut the octopus down the middle of its body so you have two sets of four legs.
- Put your octopus in a medium-sized stockpot.
- Add just enough water to the pot to cover the octopus by 1 inch.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: There’s a lot of lingo when it comes to cooking with liquid: poach, simmer, boil. They all mean different things. It’s all about temperature.
Poaching is a gentle way of cooking tender cuts of meat or vegetables. The goal is to shoot for 160 to 180F degrees. I like to poach chicken breast, fish, eggs, fruits or foods that generally don’t need a lot of heat to break down their connective tissue or fibers. One of my mentors taught me how to poach. I was told to think of it as a happy smile just waiting to say hello. It sounds odd, but it helped me remember what to look for when poaching. The surface of the liquid should shimmer with the possibility of a bubble. The food must be completely submerged. That is why in some poaching recipes, you’ll cover with parchment instead of a lid, which would quickly raise the temperature to a simmer. Science!
Simmering is more intense than poaching, but less intense than boiling. Simmering is essential for tough cuts of meat like pot roast. The slow, gentle heat melts the connective tissue. I like to simmer broths, stocks, stews and braises. The temperature is between 180 to 205F degrees. Hence, you will see lingo such as gentle simmer, medium simmer or full simmer. As my mentor described it, this is the greeting, not a handshake just yet. A simmer has slow, small bubbles that periodically rise to the surface. The gentler and slower the bubbles, the lower the temperature.
Boiling is something most people recognize when they see it. Ideally, a full boil is 212F degrees and a low boil is 206F degrees. This is what my mentor would describe to me as the handshake. Very technical stuff. Really, it’s just very hot water with rapid bubbles. I pretty much only boil pasta or hearty vegetables like beets. Boiling can quickly overcook food, making vegetables limp and meat dry and tough, even though they are cooked in liquid.
- Season the water with salt, keeping in mind as the water simmers, it will reduce and the saltiness will concentrate.
- Gently simmer the octopus at 180F degrees for 2 to 3 hours until the meat is tender, but still has a pleasant chew.
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: To check the octopus for doneness, pierce the largest end of the tentacle with a cake tester or paring knife. If should feel as though you are piercing a hard-boiled egg. Cooking times may vary widely depending on your octopus. Start checking for doneness after 90 minutes of simmering.
- While your octopus simmers, make the Spiced Orange Rub. You want to put the rub on the octopus while it’s warm so the flavors soak in.
- When the octopus is fully cooked and still warm, place it in the Spiced Orange Rub, then let it cool to room temperature and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Spiced Orange Rub
The inspiration for this rub came about while I bounced ideas off my fellow chef friend who I worked with in Denmark. We discussed combining autumnal warming spices that complemented both octopus and the smoky sweetness of Pumpkin Romesco, without actually using pumpkin pie spice. We landed on this Spiced Orange Rub. It’s a wonderful rub for octopus but also pairs great with chicken, pork and wild game birds like duck and quail.
Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Special Equipment: Mortal and pestle or spice grinder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon star anise
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Espelette pepper
- 3 teaspoons orange zest, finely grated
- 4 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Step by Step
- In a medium sauté pan, toast the coriander, fennel, cumin, cardamom, Allspice and star anise over low heat until fragrant.
- Once the spices become fragrant, allow them to cool slightly and then add them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and blend into a fine powder.
- Place the spices into a large bowl, preferably large enough to marinate the octopus overnight.
- Add the Espelette, orange zest, orange juice, garlic and olive oil to the spice blend.
- Stir to combine.
- Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.
- Next, add the cooked octopus to the mixture while the octopus is still hot. This will allow the Spiced Orange Rub to soak into the meat.
- Cool the octopus mixture to room temperature.
- Marinate overnight or up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Day 2: Make the Pumpkin Romesco
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Preheat Oven: 375F degrees | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Special Equipment: Food processor
- 1 lb. Cheese Pumpkin, cut into wedges (no need to peel)
- 1 red bell pepper, quartered
- 1/2 white onion, peeled and halved
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 2 slices of sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
- 3/4 cup olive oil + 1/4 cup for roasting veggies + 1/4 cup for toasting bread + 1/4 cup for finishing
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 375F degrees.
- While the oven preheats, cut your pumpkin, red bell pepper, onion and garlic.
- Toss them with 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl.
- Once the oven is preheated, place the vegetables in a large heavy-bottom pan.
- Roast the vegetables in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until they are charred on the edges but not burnt. The charring is important for giving the Pumpkin Romesco a deep, smoky flavor.
- While the vegetables roast, place a large heavy-bottom sauté pan over medium heat.
- Once the pan is hot, add 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- Toast the sliced sourdough and almonds in the pan until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust the heat if needed to prevent burning.
- Once the almonds and bread are toasted, turn off the burner.
- Add the smoked paprika (Pimenton de La Vera) and toast using the residual heat from the pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Next, add the mixture to your food processor along with the sherry vinegar plus another 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- Begin to blend until a chunky paste forms.
- Reserve the paste in the food processor until the vegetables are done roasting.
- Once fully roasted, add the veggies to the food processor and begin to blend with the almond sourdough paste until a thick and chunky paste forms. Don’t worry if the mixture is super chunky. It will add texture to the dish.
- Adjust with salt if needed.
- Remove the Pumpkin Romesco from the food processor and place into an airtight container.
- Let it cool to room temperature, then cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Preparing the Pumpkin Romesco a day in advance will allow the flavors to marry together and taste better the next day.
Day 3: Temper the Octopus, Prepare the Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette, Autumn Chicory and Plancha Octopus & Serve
Today’s the big day! All the prep you’ve done so far will make today look like a cakewalk. All you need to do is sear off some chicory and octopus as well as make the Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette. Then plate!
Temper the Octopus
Tempering Time: 30 minutes
All you need to do is pull the marinated cooked octopus from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. It’ll take about 30 minutes. This will give you plenty of time to knock off the rest of the tasks on your prep list for today. Slow and steady wins the race in this case. If you skip this step, it’ll be like putting an ice cube onto a hot pan. The octopus will just steam away and not get that nice, charred flavor and crispy texture we are trying to achieve. I can almost guarantee the octopus will stick to the plancha if it isn’t tempered properly.
Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette
This recipe is super simple and involves a few ingredients you most likely have on hand already.
Prep Time: 5 minutes| Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (preferably aged Pedro Ximenez vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- Salt, to taste
Step by Step
- In a medium heavy-bottom sauté pan, melt and brown the butter. You will begin to notice a nutty aroma. This is the milk solids in the butter toasting, also known as a Maillard reaction, or browning of the proteins.
- When the butter is nice and toasty brown, cut the heat and add the sherry vinegar.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Fold in the chopped parsley.
- Adjust with salt to taste and reserve in the pan for plating.
Charred Tardivo Radicchio & Escarole
Radicchio is having a moment! That’s because people are learning how to control the bitterness of beautiful purple chicory. One way to do that is to simply sear or grill it to bring out the smoky sweetness of the radicchio. Since we’re using the plancha for the octopus, we might as well use it to sear the Tardivo radicchio and escarole.
Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 5 to 7 minutes | Special Equipment: Plancha or large cast iron pan
- 1 medium Treviso radicchio, cut into 6 wedges lengthwise
- 1 medium escarole, cut into 4 wedges
- Olive oil, as needed
- Salt, to taste
Step by Step
- Heat your plancha or cast iron pan over medium to medium-high heat.
- In a medium mixing bowl, toss the Tardivo and escarole wedges with olive oil and salt to coat them evenly.
- Place the escarole cut side down onto the hot plancha or pan.
- Cook the escarole in an even layer until browned and slightly wilted. Avoid crowding the pan as it will prevent them from browning evenly. This will take about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Once cooked, reserve them to the side on a plate until you are ready to serve.
- Brown the Tardivo cut side down in the same fashion. Tardivo is a little hardier than escarole, so it will take 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Once cooked, place the Tardivo on the same plate as the escarole for plating.
Sear the Octopus
Cook Time: 7 to 10 minutes
Step by Step
- Preheat your plancha or cast iron pan to medium high.
- Slick the plancha or pan with olive oil and wait for small wisps of smoke.
- Place the tempered octopus (tentacles cup side down) onto the plancha or pan and sear without moving for 3 to 4 minutes or until the tentacle cups are brown and crispy. Less movement is better. This will ensure a crispy, charred texture.
- Flip the octopus over and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until the underside is browned and crispy.
- Turn off the heat and let the octopus sit in the warm plancha or pan while you assemble the Autumn Chicory Salad.
Autumn Chicory Salad
This is a simple salad of beautiful autumn chicories served with the Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette. I like to use Treviso radicchio and Castelfranco radicchio. If you’ve never seen Castelfranco radicchio, it’s worth seeking out. It’s beautiful. Bright, leafy yellow heads of radicchio are flecked with purple. It’s just as tasty as it is artful. I highly recommend it. The use of cooked and raw radicchio shows off the versatility of this chicory.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 1 small Castelfranco radicchio, rustically torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 small Tardivo radicchio, torn into rustic bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette
- Salt, to taste
Step by Step
- In a large bowl, toss the radicchios with the Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette.
- Serve on a plate with the marinated octopus, Charred Autumn Chicory and Pumpkin Romesco.
I like to plate this octopus supper rustically, right on a large cutting board for a fun, interactive meal. I leave the octopus tentacles attached for dramatic effect and it allows someone to “carve” the octopus tableside.
Step by Step
- Place the octopus tentacles (cup side up) on a large wooden cutting board.
- Spoon the Pumpkin Romesco rustically around the board for people to swipe their octopus through.
- Scatter the Charred Autumn Chicory and Autumn Chicory Salad over the entire dish.
- Spoon on the remaining Brown Butter Sherry Vinaigrette.
- Enjoy with your family and friends!