Posted by: lisetta | July 6, 2010

Octopus in wine

We’re having a heat wave here on the East Coast. Temps in Philadelphia today topped 102 degrees. If the air conditioning in my car were working, I’d have gone out for something to eat. Instead, I turned to my freezer to find the other half of the octopus that Alain and I bought when he visited. A quick call to Luca and I had a way of cooking it: in red wine.

It’s cooking now, actually. The preparation was simple: saute in olive oil some onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Add some peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. Add the octopus and a cup of wine to about a gallon of water. Simmer at a low heat for a very long time. It’s been cooking for about an hour and 45 minutes. Luca says that I’ll know it’s done when I pinch its thickest tentacle and my thumbs almost touch. He warned me that I’d have to do it fast or it’ll burn my hand. Hmm. Getting cooking instructions from a chef doesn’t always lead to understanding. I used my ceramic knife to test for tenderness, making sure to stop cooking before the skin (ie fat and flavor) melts off.

Seems that everyone has a trick or two for cooking octopus. Mark Bittman writes well about it for the Splendid Table.  I learned to like it while travelling in Greece 10 years ago. We’d often stop at these small family restaurants where a fresh octopus would be hanging on a clothesline to dry. We almost always ate it grilled, as I recall. I’ll eat it tomorrow, probably as a side dish, perhaps with a tomato and cucumber salad. Though if I had done my internet research *before* cooking, I might have chosen this octopus salad:

Octopus are pretty smart. Here’s a funny clip of one defending itself from a bird.

Wonder what it would do to defend itself from a human. Sorry, octopus.



  1. I’ve only tried octopus once – on the coast in Mexico where I knew it would be fresh. It was okay – I wasn’t crazy about the saute technique. I’d try it again, though. How did it turn out with the red wine?

  2. I tasted it tonight and have to say that it is very delicious in wine! I’m letting it sit in the wine sauce overnight and will eat it with a meal tomorrow. It turned out tender and savory, with a milder octopus flavor than I’ve had with other preparations. 🙂

  3. I had octopus in Spain but now that Paul is predicting Spain to win the World Cup octopi must be protected!

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