Spicy lemony grilled octopus
It took me years to acquire a taste for octopus. 33 long years to be exact.
I was about nine years old when I discovered this delicacy. We were at a beach house here in Haiti. Chatwouj was on the menu. I had no idea what sea creature that was. But I was curious to try it. Until someone told me it was actually octopus. I immediately pictured it with its long tentacles. Ursula from the Little Mermaid even came to mind. There was no way I would bite into a chunk of her body.
Fast forward ten years later
I was on an adventure trip with 400 teens from around the world. A backpacking trip, which often landed us in remote areas with limited car access. When that happened, we were fed army food. And I mean that literally. I remember the first time I received that khaki colored box with the Spanish flag on it. I was confused. That would be our dinner. When I opened that box, I found a bunch of cans. The main item on the menu was labeled: pulpo, octopus in Spanish. I reluctantly opened that can. It was filled with a gelatinous and slimy pink substance filled with grains. It rebuked me. Biting into the grainy bits was no fun. But I had no choice. I had to eat it. Or else, I would starve. From that day on, I promised myself I would never eat that mollusk.
Yet, a few weeks ago, I was going to give it a second chance.
A friend was raging about how delicious octopus was. I had to try it. On our next outing, I opted for the grilled octopus dish on the menu. It came beautifully displayed atop squid ink risotto. There was no gelatin or slime. Only a perfectly tender grilled octopus tentacle. I was hooked.
Right here and there, I decided that I had to try and prepare it myself. About a week later, I bought my very first raw octopus. I had no idea how to clean it. And no one to teach me. Thankfully, the Internet can teach you anything. So, after watching a few videos and reading a few instructions, I extracted the beak and cleaned my octopus. I then prepared a wine broth in which I dipped the mollusk in it a few times for its tentacles to curl up. After about 45 minutes, I turned the stove off. My octopus was perfectly tender. I let my cooked octopus marinate in a spicy lemony piment bouc sauce for a few hours. I grilled it, and served it drizzled with the same spicy sauce.
My exploration did not stop there. The next day, I used the leftovers for a quick snack. I topped some toasts with sour cream, black lava salt, black sesame seeds and a piece of octopus. It was one of the best snacks I ever had.
Haitian-style spicy grilled octopus
For instructions on how to clean your octopus, head over this article from The Spruce Eats. Those are the directions I followed,.
- 1 medium-sized previously cleaned octopus
For the broth
- 1 cup of white wine
- 2-3 cups of water enough to submerge the octopus
- 3 Bay leaves
- 3-5 garlic heads
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp chili
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
For the spicy sauce
- 5 shallots chopped
- ½ red onion chopped
- 1 piment bouc chopped
- 3 juice of lime
- Olive oil
- Fresh Parsley
In a pot, combine all the broth ingredients. Make sure to add enough water to cover the octopus
Bring all the ingredients to a boil
Let simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavors to be infused
Dip the octopus in the water 2 or 3 times for about 10 seconds each time. This helps the tentacles curl up
Submerge the octopus completely in the broth
Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hours, until the octopus is tender. Be careful not to overcook it for that can have the reverse effect, and make your octopus chewy
Take the octopus out of the water and cut it into small pieces
In a bowl, combine the spicy sauce ingredients
Drizzle that sauce atop the cut octopus
Drizzle generously with the olive oil
Cover and let marinate in the fridge for a few hours. I left mine overnight
Fire up a cast iron grill
Once it is hot, grill the octopus for about 5-10 minutes on each side or until it is crispy on the outside
Serve with the spicy sauce as an appetizer, side or snack