Mediterranean octopus -- most widely available on the East Coast -- is considered unsustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Hawaiian and Californian octopus may be used, however. Chef Michael Psilakis says young squid is an acceptable substitute (see VARIATION, below).
Make Ahead: The octopus can be cooked a day in advance; let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Servings: 6 - 8
- For the octopus
- Whole legs from one 4- to 6-pound octopus, cleaned (see headnote and VARIATION)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Blended oil (50 percent canola oil, 50 percent extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 6 medium cloves garlic
- 4 fresh bay leaves (may substitute 4 dried bay leaves)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- For the salad
- Chickpea Confit (see related recipe)
- 15 ounces (2 cups) cooked or canned black-eyed peas (if canned, then drain and rinse well)
- 1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 8 scallions, green parts only, cut crosswise into thin slices (1 to 1/4 cups)
- 10 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), cut into thick strips
- Leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
- Fronds from 1 or 2 stems dill, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice from 1 medium lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Small handful of torn fresh herbs, such as dill, mint and/or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- For the ladolemono
- Juice from 2 or 3 lemons (1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1 tablespoon dried greek oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Generous grind of black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the octopus: Have a large Dutch oven or roasting pan ready. Season the octopus legs liberally with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, add a little of the blended oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add 2 of the legs, tentacle sides down. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes, then use tongs to transfer to the Dutch oven or roasting pan. Repeat to sear all of the octopus legs, letting the skillet become very hot each time.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Add the garlic, bay leaves and crushed red pepper flakes to the Dutch oven or roasting pan with the seared octopus. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil; cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the octopus, until it is fork tender.
Heat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat.
For the salad: Meanwhile, combine the Chickpea Confit, black-eyed peas, red onion, scallions, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley and dill in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the olive oil and lemon juice; toss to combine and coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Add the braised octopus legs to the grill pan; you may have to do this in batches. Heat them through, using tongs to turn them, so they develop a slight char, then transfer them to the bowl of salad ingredients, placing them on top.
For the ladolemono: Combine the lemon juice, Dijon-style mustard, dried oregano, salt, pepper and oil in a 1-cup jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. (This dressing breaks easily, so prepare it just before serving.)
To serve, drizzle the octopus legs generously with all of the ladolemono. Garnish the salad with the torn fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
VARIATION: To substitute squid for the octopus, you can skip the braising process and its ingredients. Chef Psilakis prefers using young squid, which has thin flesh. Assemble the salad and make the ladelemono.
Heat a grill pan over high heat. Use just enough oil to coat 3 pounds of cleaned squid tubes and tentacles. Season them with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss them on the grill; cook for 1 minute or two, or just until the purplish-gray flesh turns lighter and opaque. Be careful not to overcook, or the squid will be chewy.
Transfer to a cutting board to chop into smaller pieces, if desired, then add to the salad and proceed with the final recipe directions.
Adapted from Psilakis's "How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking" (Little, Brown, 2009).
Tested by Melissa McCart and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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