WHEN I teach cooking classes to American cooks, I show them how to clean and cook an octopus. Octopus is popular in the entire Mediterranean, but it is most closely associated with the cuisine of Greece. A good grilled octopus is like a good grilled steak—it shouldn’t be too soft (most restaurants boil it to death before grilling it). You should have to work a little to get at the fl avor, chewing and savoring as you would a thick T-bone.
- 1 large, preferably fresh, octopus, about 4 pounds
- 2⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups dry red wine
- 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 bay leaves, cracked
- 15 whole peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried, preferably Greek
- With a sharp knife, cut off the hood of the octopus just below the eyes, and using a small, sharp paring knife, dislodge and discard its beak.Rinse well.
- Place the octopus, olive oil, red wine, vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic in a large pot. Cover and heat over medium heat. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the octopus for 35 to 60 minutes, depending on its innate toughness and the thickness of its tentacles. It should be bright pink, tender, but al dente. Let it cool in the pot liquid. (You can do this a day or even two days ahead of time and keep the octopus refrigerated once it cools to room temperature. Just bring it back up to room temperature before grilling.)
- Heat the grill to very hot.
- Remove the octopus from the pot liquid and cut into 8 pieces (along the tentacles). Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Add the oregano. Pour the pot liquid into a food pro cessor or blender and pro cess on high until emulsified.
- Place the octopus tentacles on the grill and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, turning and brushing with the marinade. Remove and serve.