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Octopus Salad

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Octopus Salad

When all of a sudden you long for the Mediterranean, but everything you have in front of you is fog, dense and damp, there are three things you can do to fix this:

1) Open that bottle of Coppertone that for centuries has been lying unused in the back of the drawer, close your eyes and inhale all the way to the bottom of your lungs;

2) Watch this for the millionth time, and be moved;

3) Pay a visit to your trusted fishmonger, he's got octopus for sure.

Yesterday number one and two. Today number three and so be it.

Octopus Salad
for 3

whole octopus, net 1, about 3 lb 5 oz
bay leaves 1
celery 1 stalk
salt, pepper, parsley, olive oil, parsley to taste

I hope you can buy an already cleaned octopus, otherwise good luck with that...
Mine was frozen, which it's not even bad per se, since freezing the octopus before cooking it helps tenderizing the meat. But if you're lucky enough to find a fresh one, but no fisherman has been so magnanimous to bang it against the rocks, you can always try to face it by yourself at the sound of a meat tenderizer. For me, nothing so romantic, I just had to wait for it to thaw. Cleaned and rinsed properly, my beautiful octopus was ready for use.
I brought a large pot of water to boil with a little salt and a bay leaf. I threw in the purple creature, and I cooked it with no mercy for about an hour and ten minutes (but you should adjust the time depending on the size of your prey). When the tentacles gently surrendered to the irreverent fork, I realized it was time to put an end to the torture. I turned off the heat and let the poor octopus cool down in its cooking water.
In the meantime I was able to forget about this whole nightmare and I perfumed my hands chopping up a bunch of parsley and squeezing the juice of two lemons. I made a very simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, to which I added the finely chopped parsley.
I then (re)took courage, and caught the octopus from the pot, searching for it in a now dark liquid. I held it for several minutes under running water trying to eliminate the skin as much as possible (ie... I was flaying it!). At this point, I cut it into pieces and put them in a bowl. I then reached for the fridge and took one harmless celery stalk, cut into small cubes and mixed them with the octopus. I seasoned it all with the olive oil and lemon dressing, sprinkled it with another pinch of black pepper and a little more parsley, tossed it one more time and that's that!
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