PHOTO BY R.J HINKLE.

Charred Octopus Salad With Saffron Garlic Aioli

Executive chef Daniel Andre of the Buckhead Club in Atlanta takes the mystery out of cooking octopus at home with his zesty, flavor-packed recipe. Here’s his garlicky way to serve this Barcelona seafood staple over crunchy escarole lettuce.

1 quart red wine vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

4 pounds fresh octopus, cleaned

1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

2 heads escarole lettuce, torn in pieces

Saffron Garlic Aioli (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a deep, ovenproof pot, add the red wine vinegar, bay leaf, and peppercorns. With a knife or kitchen shears, remove each tentacle from the octopus. Place the tentacles in the pot, cover, and cook for about 40 minutes or until tender. Check frequently because cooking time can vary significantly based on the size of the octopus. Once cooked, remove the tentacles from the liquid. Let them cool and rinse off any residue on the skin. Set aside.

Preheat a grill on high. Lightly brush the octopus pieces with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and char them on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large salad bowl, mix the sherry vinegar and Dijon mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the escarole with the vinaigrette. Divide the salad among six plates.

Slice the octopus into bite-size pieces and arrange over the lettuce. Top each serving with a dollop of Saffron Garlic Aioli.

Yield: 6 servings

SAFFRON GARLIC AIOLI

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 pinch saffron

1 cup olive oil

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons water

In a small pan over low heat, combine the garlic cloves, saffron, and olive oil. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the oil and cool.

In a small food processor, mix the yolks, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add water, and slowly add the cooled saffron garlic oil while the food processor’s motor is running, to incorporate. Place the mixture in a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour before serving atop the octopus salad.

Chef’s Tip: “Octopus shrinks significantly once it hits the hot cooking water, so make sure to buy more than you think you will need.”

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