Don’t they look utterly stunning? I always thought so, and it is this aspect that has always intrigued me about baby octopus. Every time I would leaf through a food magazine (Australian ones in particular are fond of this ingredient) or cookbook with a photo or recipe for baby octopus, I would stop and read it. Looks were definitely the hook, taste and texture followed… So after I managed to purchase 2 kilos of baby octopus at the Carbon market in Cebu a few days ago, I decided to try and make two dishes, and this grilled baby octopus salad with tomatoes was the first dish…
First the baby octopodes were cleaned and because I was concerned that direct grilling would result in tough meat, I simmered the octopuses in water with some lemon juice bay leaves, peppercorns and salt for some 25-30 minutes until tender and drained them and discarded the herbs/spices. Next, I sprinkled the octopi with olive oil and salt and pepper and grilled them over hot coals for a few minutes just to crisp up their tentacle tips and add a smokey flavor and aroma.
I tossed the grilled octopi with some small ripe native tomatoes dressed with a touch of red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper and served this as photographed. They were delicious, but I have to say, a bit tougher than I thought they should be. I don’t know if I simmered them for too little time or too much time. At any any rate, I understand why most recipes call for chopping the octopus into smaller pieces but I was after looks and visuals with the whole mini beasts curling their tentacles. They tasted great, just a bit chewier than they should have been.
If I had some baby arugula that would have taken this dish up a notch. But experiment and learn… I hope I find more baby octopi in local markets in the months ahead so I can try other recipes as well. Keep in mind this trick that Mario Batali swears by… float a traditional wine cork in the liquid that you simmer the octopodes in and it should ensure that they are cooked to tender perfection. What that is, even Mario doesn’t know… :)