One of the very best seafood for grilling has got to be the octopus. Grilled baby octopus has incredible flavor, it is a pleasantly chewy but not tough—when properly prepared—and it crisps up beautifully under the grill’s intense heat. There’s a good reason why it’s a favorite summertime dish all around the Mediterranean basin.
Unlike most other seafood, octopus needs some precooking before it is ready to grill, but otherwise it is as carefree as grilling gets. No worries like finny fish about it falling apart on the grill. Just let it sear on both sides and serve!
Serves 4-6 people
For the pre-cooking:
- 6 baby octopi
- 1 lemon, cut up
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley
- A couple of cloves of garlic
- Salt and pepper
For the marinade:
- Freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons
- A good pour of olive oil
- A pinch of oregano
- Salt and pepper
- A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Step 1: Pre-cooking: Simmer the baby octopi with the other ingredients in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. (If using mature octopus, double the pre-cooking time.) Let the octopi cool in their liquid.
Step 2: Marinade: Drain and cut the octopi up into 3 or 4 pieces, leaving the tentacles intact. Place the octopus pieces into a bowl with the marinade ingredients. Mix well and let rest for 30 minutes or so.
Step 3: Grilling: Get your grill nice and hot, as hot as you can. Sear the octopus pieces until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Brush the pieces with the marinade from time to time
Step 4: Finishing and plating: Take the octopus off the grill, and put them back in the bowl with the marinade. Mix once to coat all the pieces, then plate the octopus, pouring the remaining marinade over everything. Serve your grilled baby octopus immediately with lemon wedges.
Octopus can be found at better fish mongers. I found a package of frozen baby octopus from Thailand in my local supermarket, and they were excellent. Baby octopus is a better choice for grilling, as it is quite tender and only requires a few minutes pre-cooking. But you can use ‘grown up’ octopus as well, just extend the pre-cooking.
Octopus are best grilled using a vegetable grill pan or grate so the small pieces don’t fall into the fire.
Grilled baby octopus goes particularly well with potatoes, in particular patate al forno (Oven Roasted Potatoes), which I now realize I’ve never bothered to blog on. I’ll need to rectify that glaring omission right away!