Glenn Lozuke, the chef de cuisine at Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, is originally from New Jersey, where he grew up eating octopus and home-cured meats. This is, hands down, the best grilled octopus I have eaten anywhere in this country. Poaching is the key to tenderness in this preparation, along with the acidity of the marinade. No beating the octopus with a stick to tenderize, as it is sometimes done in the Mediterranean.
- 3 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 stalk celery, broken in half
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 pounds frozen cleaned octopus, defrosted
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon, zest removed with a vegetable peeler and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
- 10 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins, plumped in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups arugula
- 1 cup tom radicchio
- 8 tom fresh basil leaves
1. Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the octopus, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender, 1 to 1½ hours. The meat is done when you can cut the thickest part of the tentacle with a butter knife. Remove from the poaching liquid and let the octopus cool for 15 minutes. Using your hands or a clean dishtowel, remove all the skin.
2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the octopus, tossing to coat. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Combine the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, capers, olives, and raisins in a medium bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Light a charcoal fire or preheat your gas grill on high. Oil the grill’s cooking surface.
5. Remove the octopus from the marinade, letting the excess drain back into the bowl. Discard the marinade. Season the octopus with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes total, turning so that all the sides get slightly golden and crispy.
6. Remove to a cutting board, then cut the tentacles at an angle into ½-inch-thick pieces. Toss with the salad dressing. Add the arugula, radicchio, and basil, tossing well to combine. Serve immediately.