How to Cook an Octopus, Mexico-Style

I travel to Mexico frequently—mostly for the food. And whenever I come across a cooking class in Mexico, I almost always give it a shot. Last month I wrote about a class in Puebla where I learned to make an incredible mole poblano. I also wrote about the fish tacos at Four Seasons Punta Mita, from an afternoon cooking class at the resort’s beachside grill, Bahía (where they serve an incredible white sangria), led by celebrity chef Richard Sandoval and executive chef Philippe Piel. Here’s another recipe from that class: a super-easy, incredibly delicious grilled octopus with cactus pico de gallo.

Step One: Catch an octopus.

Good luck with that. (Actually, it’s pretty easy these days to find good quality frozen octopus any decent fish seller.) The Four Seasons is lucky enough to have a bunch of local fishermen who catch the fresh octopus in the ocean in front of the resort (or somewhere thereabouts).

Step Two is optional. Personally, when I’m cooking octopus, I prefer to kneed it to remove a bit of its natural liquid. Chef Sandoval doesn’t do this. He prefers that slightly gooey texture which results from the octopus’ natural juices. I prefer my octopus a bit less gelatinous, so here’s an easy next step that’s not actually included in Sandoval’s recipe below. Take the octopus and put it in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, and turn it on. Let it kneed slowly, like bread dough, until the octopus becomes really, really frothy. You’ll be amazed at how much sudsy liquid the octopus will release. Once it’s nice and frothy, remove the octopus, rinse it well, and follow the rest of the recipe as it’s written below.

Step Three:

Grilled Pacific Octopus with Cactus Pico de Gallo

2 Octopus (octopi?)
1/2 cup Mirepoix (chopped celery, onion and carrot)
5 or 6 Guajillo chiles, soaked until softened
2 Tbsp. Chipotle puree
1 Tbsp. Garlic
1 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1 tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. White vinegar
1/3 cup Oil
1/2 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 cup Cactus paddle, peeled, salted and rinsed
1/2 cup Diced tomato
1/2 cup Diced red onion
1/2 cup Crumbled panela cheese
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 Serrano chile, seeded, chopped
1 lime, juice of
1/3 cup Olive tapenade
1/4 cup Lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Honey
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup Olive oil
Extra lemon juice
2 cups Arugula

1. Catch an octopus

2. Optional octopus prep (see above)

3. Wash the octopus, rinsing it several times. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the octopus, letting it cook until any last bit of foam comes to the surface. Remove the foam with a strainer. Add the mirepois and bay leaf, reduce the heat, and simmer for about an hour, more or less, until nice and tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut off and reserve the tentacles. Fire up the grill.

4. While the octopus is cooling and grill is heating up, make the marinade: In a blender, combine the chiles, garlic, oregano, cumin, soy sauce, salt, 2 Tbsp. vinegar and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Puree until fully blended and smooth. Add the octopus tentacles and toss well.

5. Make a salsa by combining the cactus, tomato, onion, cheese, cilantro, serrano, lime juice and olive tapenade.

6. Now make a vinaigrette by whisking together the lemon juice, honey, 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup olive oil.

7. Cook the octopus on a very hot grill until it begins to char around the edges, but being careful not to overcook all the way through. (It’s already cooked; the idea here is to reheat it by charring it over the flames.)

8. Squeeze a lemon over the octopus, and serve it over the arugula, topped off with the salsa.


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