Poached Octopus as served at Astoria Café and Market in Cleveland, Ohio, as seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, season 35.
Recipe courtesy of Astoria Cafe & Market

Octopus alla Karvouna (Charcoal-Grilled Octopus)

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr 10 min (includes pickling and marinating time)
  • Active: 1 hr 10 min
  • Yield: 4 servings


Pickled Red Onion:



Special equipment:
a meat mallet
  1. For the pickled red onion: Slice the red onion into 1/8-inch strips and place in a large, heat-safe container. Bring the rice vinegar and sugar to a boil, stirring on occasion, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then turn off the heat. Let the liquid cool for 5 minutes, then pour the mixture into the container with the onions and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. When the onions turn bright pink and fluffy, they are ready (4 to 24 hours).
  2. Octopus preparation: Spread out the octopus on a cutting board and cover completely with plastic wrap. Tenderize the octopus with a mallet, starting from the middle body extending down the tentacles. Transfer to a pan and lightly sprinkle the baking soda over both sides of the octopus, then let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Poaching liquid: In a 10-quart pot, add 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, wine and wine cork, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, lemons and 6 to 8 cups water. (The water line should be around 1 inch above the octopus once dropped into the pot.)
  4. Cooking the octopus: Bring the poaching liquid to just about a simmer, 180 to 190 degrees F. Rinse the resting octopus in the sink to remove the excess baking soda. Transfer the octopus to the pot and continue to simmer until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F, 60 to 70 minutes.
  5. Breaking down the octopus: Place the octopus on a cutting board, and separate each tentacle from the body using a knife. Using the back of the knife, gently remove the gelatinous skin from each tentacle. (If your knife skills are limited, you can use paper towels and gently wipe the skin from the tentacles.)
  6. Grilling the octopus: Light your back patio grill and bring it up to 450 to 500 degrees F. Lightly cover the octopus tentacle in 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on the grill and sear, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Pull off the grill and let rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, build the accompaniment salad by tossing the arugula with some pickled red onions, the remaining teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  7. Plating: On a clean cutting board, place the grilled octopus and slice the tentacles into 1-inch pinwheels. Arrange on a plate. Drizzle with some cabernet vinegar and Picual olive oil, then sprinkle with the herbs. To finish the plate, add a small handful of the dressed greens, and enjoy.

Cook’s Note

Using a wine cork in poaching is an old-world superstition, following the belief that the cork will release enzymes that settle between the octopus’s protein chains, providing tender meat. If not grilling immediately after cleaning, you can store the cleaned octopus tentacles in a container covered in olive oil for up to 1 month. Olive oil can act as a preservative if stored at consistent temperatures and the item is fully submerged.