Octopus Salad a la Catalana

Cinque Terre, Italian seafood cuisine

This is a classic Italian seafood salad that is healthy and easy to make. I have to say, I love octopus. It is hands down, my favorite food. When cooked properly it is absolutely succulent. I know, I am strange. I first learned how to cook proper octopus by reading through Nobu’s first cookbook, and he obviously does it with asian spices. But its very versatile and can be used in almost every cuisine. When I moved to Italy, I started seeing a version of this salad everywhere. I first had it at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Milan, Rissaca 6. But you can get it in a lot of typical trattorias. I take out the potatoes in mine and add red onions and a bit of a dressing, but its perfectly nice to have it with potatoes and no onion and balsamic of course. That would be the approved Italian version anyway.

Serves 4

One whole octopus/preferably pre frozen (if fresh, its best to freeze it over night then defrost it, as it will soften the flesh. There is another method of cooking fresh octopus)

  • 1 red onion
  • 15 cherry tomatoes/sliced in halves
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 bunch each of chopped parsley and basil
  • I bunch unchopped parsley
  • A handful of brown/black olives
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 unpeeled cloves of garlic
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • sea salt
  • half a bottle of white wine
  • one wine cork
  • optional: one waxy boiled potato

Clean your octopus by cutting out its beak and taking it’s ink sack away. You can also boil it whole and after its cooked, simply discard the insides when chopping.

Roughly chop your carrot, celery, and yellow onion, leaving the peeling in tact. Get a large pot and fill first with white wine, then fill until 2/3 full with water and a good helping of sea salt. Throw your chopped vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine cork, and garlic into the pot and bring to a boil. As it comes to a boil, get your octopus and hold it from the head. Slowly dunk it in the water, dipping the ends of the tentacles first into the water so they start curling. As they curl, move the octopus into the water. This will create beautiful spirals. When the water comes back to boiling, lower the heat to very gentle simmer. The octopus should be barely moving. You will leave this to simmer a minimum of one hour but usually one hour and half is perfect. Check periodically. The flesh should be very soft when it is complete. After the cooking, turn the heat off and let the water and octopus cool down to room temperature. Only then do you take the octopus out of the liquid. You will want to cut it up into bite size pieces. It is entirely up to you to take off the skin or leave it on. The skin has incredible flavor when cooked this way, so I recommend leaving it in tact. But most Italians would shudder at the thought, so you choose. Set aside.

Finely slice your red onion with a mandolin and put in a bowl with your lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic, chopped herbs and olives. Add your cherry tomatoes and octopus pieces. Add your chopped boiled potato if desired. Mix well, and season to taste. This salad can be served chilled or at room temperature.

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