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Hauling in a spot prawn trap off Texada Island a decade ago, we were surprised to find a very sated Pacific octopus. One guest feared the interloper was endangered, but my wife looked it up in her trusty fisheries guide. Limit per licence: one. Aiming the ink sac away from the boat’s white leather interior (and terrified onlookers), I quickly cut out the beak of said cephalopod. It furnished a beachside meal that couldn’t have been more West Coast.
Grilled Octopus With Lemon, Oregano, and Chili
Here’s a method that involves braising the octopus in its own juices. The preparation over 24 hours is simple, the results tasty
1 8-lb octopus (ask fishmonger to debeak/clean)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1 tbsp dried chili flakes
sea salt to season
Warm a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over low heat, then add the octopus and slowly raise the heat to medium. The octopus will begin to release — and braise in — its own juices. Check from time to time, carefully adjusting or flipping octopus as necessary so it remains covered. After 60 to 90 minutes, remove from liquid and let cool. Remove tentacles and discard body and braising liquid. Scrape some of the fat from tentacles and discard. Add oil, lemon juice and zest, oregano, and chili to the tentacles, then cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
The next day, season with salt and mix well. Grill (ideally over wood charcoal but gas flame will do) over high heat until charred and hot. (It’s already cooked; you’re just adding flavour and heating.) Cut into medallions; serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer.
NOTE: Recipe tested by the vancouver community college culinary arts students (vcc.ca)
The giant Pacific octopus is showing up on more local menus than the GST. You can find it ceviched at Hawksworth (801 W. Georgia St., 604-673-7000) with side-stripe shrimp, avocado, and plantain; marinated with chemoula and grilled at East Van’s Bistro Wagon Rouge (1869 Powell St., 604-251-4070); barbecued and served with a smoked pepper sauce at L’Abattoir (217 Carrall St., 604-568-1701); and poached at Cioppino’s (1129 Hamilton St., 604- 688-7466), where it’s sautéed with Tuscan white beans and spelt. Home cooks can pre-order one (give two days’ notice) at Finest at Sea’s Kerrisdale location (4675 Arbutus St., 604-266-1904) or most Greek specialty stores for about $5 per pound.
Vancouver Test Kitchen: WATCH Chef Hamid Salimian testour Grilled Pacific Octopus recipe and add his own personal flair