Octopus with Onions and Red Wine

A photo in the cookbook Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, from IHCC’s monthly featured chef Tessa Kiros, of octopus left hanging out on washing line in the sun to dry in Greece caught my attention. It heightened my interest and desire in traveling to Greece and having fresh seafood for lunch by the beach.

The next best thing for now, to satisfy my stomach and curiosity, would be to make an octopus dish from the book. Perhaps, a cooking experimentation, if you will, since I’ve never worked with octopus before. The fun started when you tried finding octopus to buy when you don’t live near the sea. I ended up getting a small frozen whole octopus.

Learning the anatomy of octopus is another lesson in itself. “Cut the head off the octopus just below the eyes. Remove the beak by pushing it out through the center of the tentacles. Cut the eyes from the head by slicing off a small round. Remove the intestines by pushing them out of the head.” Seriously? I read the instruction a few times and did not quite get it. I’ve butchered whole chicken and fish, but that’s the extent of my butchering skill. Lucky me, I found out after the package of octopus was defrosted that all these awesome steps were done for me. All I had to do was to rinse and to cut up the octopus into chunks.

I substituted pearl onions for small white boiling onions because that’s what I could find in the local markets. I followed the recipe closely. After simmering for over an hour, the sauce turned out more like a thick tomato sauce than a light red wine sauce, as shown in the book. Nonetheless, the sauce was richly flavored. The octopus and pearl onions tasted fine, but not perfect. The octopus was a bit chewy. The original 1-inch pieces of octopus shrunk and looked somewhat lost in the sea of red sauce. It’s probably the results of my own doing for not following through with the last procedure: adding water, if necessary, and not giving the octopus the 30-minute cooling time in the hot stew before serving.

I haven’t tasted an octopus stifado before. Just don’t know what to expect! Has anyone tried making this dish? I’d love to hear about your experience if you have.

This won’t be my last run with octopus. If and when I can get my hands on some fresh whole octopus, there is another octopus recipe in Kiros’ book I’d like to make: grilled octopus with oregano. The octopus is quickly grilled and lightly dressed with oil and vinegar. I thought of grilling the octopus, but even the small piece I brought home was far too big to fit on the stovetop grill. Sadly, the outdoor grill was inaccessible, under several inches of snow.

I may even go as far as dissecting the whole octopus next time around. That would have to wait until the summer when you can hang the octopus on the washing line in the sun to dry.




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  • Reply
    Lydia Filgueras
    February 11, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    There's a guy on YouTube names Scott Rea who has a nice demonstration of a Galician style octopus. Kudus for even giving it a try. It's usually something I let other people cook for me, lol.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks so much, Lydia. Wonderful videos by Scott Rea. Now, I'm really inspired to try his approach, the way octopus is served in Spain.

  • Reply
    Deb in Hawaii
    February 13, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    You are so brave! I have never 'battled' an octopus in the kitchen–only helped prepare some tiny squid once. 😉 Lucky you didn't have to do the full on butchering of this one. It certainly looks delicious–love the flavorings in that sauce.

  • Reply
    Diane Zwang
    February 14, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Wow you are brave to have wanted to cut up a whole octopus but I am glad it was done for you. It looks delicious but I am not sure I want octopus.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    You are such an adventurous cook! I'm afraid of octopus, well that and I doubt I could get my hands on it in central Kentucky. If I were going to try it then I would try a braised dish, such as this. I've heard you either need to cook it in minutes or slow cook it in order for it to be tender. Either way, this looks like an amazing dish and one that could be worth perfecting! Here's to octopus!

  • Reply
    Couscous & Consciousness
    February 15, 2016 at 12:13 am

    When I holidayed in the Greek islands it was a very common sight to see the octopus hanging out to dry – in fact just about every restaurant would have a line of them out. I actually learned how to butcher an octopus at a cooking class I did in Bali last year, and would love to try it again, but never seem to find octopus available where I live. If ever do come across it though, this is the dish I'll be trying – I've had this one bookmarked for ages and it looks so good.

  • Reply
    Joyce Rachel Lee-Bates
    February 15, 2016 at 3:21 am

    The instructions about how to clean an octopus are really eye-opening!

  • Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 5:22 am

    So octopus hanging out to dry is a common sight in Greece! Now I have an excuse to check it out in person. Exciting to learn about culture through food.

  • Reply
    kitchen flavours
    February 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Thumbs up to you for cooking with octopus! I cook frequently with squids but never octopus! That is one delicious looking dish, one that my family would definitely enjoy!

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