A Tapa of Mediterranean Octopus
A Tapa of Mediterranean Octopus

Mediterranean Octopus is a Tapas style appetizer that reflects both Spanish and Italian influences. It features octopus tentacles that are poached in a flavored broth until almost tender, finished on the grill, and then served in a reduction of the poaching medium.

The ‘Tapas’ meal is a terrific culinary tradition originating in Spain. It involves multiple small dishes, often shared, that can be served all together, or one at a time over the course of a late evening repast. There are many traditional favorites, some hot, some cold, and most people enjoy them along with drinks in establishments known as ‘Tapas Bars’.

A single plate served during a tapas-style meal is properly called a ‘tapa’.

Ingredients for one Mediterranean Octopus Tapa

  • 2 small octopus tentacles;
  • 1 cup of white wine;
  • ½ a small onion, finely chopped;
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed;
  • 1 tsp. Sugar;
  • 1 tsp. Paprika;
  • 2 Bay leaves;
  • 1 clove of garlic minced;
  • 2 Tbsp. diced Tomato;
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Parsley.
Pre-blanched octopus tentacles
Pre-blanched octopus tentacles

By the way, the tentacles used here were previously blanched, frozen, and thawed. If you are unfamiliar with the process of blanching octopus, you may wish to read the introductory article: How to Prepare Octopus.

Since the octopus will be poached before being grilled, you can actually get away with omitting the pre-blanching step. If you do, though, you will need to extend the poaching time in order to ensure that the tentacles are sufficiently tender.

The Method

The first step in the cooking process is poaching the tentacles:

Poaching 0ctopus tentacles in a flavored broth
Poaching 0ctopus tentacles in a flavored broth

Use as small a saucepan as possible and add your tentacles along with all the remaining ingredients except the minced garlic, chopped tomato and parsley. Turn up the heat to bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer.

You will need to poach at a gentle simmer for anywhere from about 30 to as much as 90 minutes depending on the size of the tentacles, and whether or not you have pre-blanched the meat. After about 30 minutes, start poking the flesh periodically with a toothpick or the like to see how things are coming along. The meat is properly done when the toothpick enters fairly easily but still encounters a bit of resistance.

Once the meat is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. You can move on to the next step immediately if you want, but the dish will be improved if you let the tentacles steep in the liquid in the refrigerator overnight.

Reducing the poaching broth
Reducing the poaching broth

When you are ready, remove the tentacles from the poaching liquid and set them aside for the moment. Next, strain the poaching liquid of all solids and reduce over high heat until only about only one quarter of the original volume remains. Pour it off into a suitable receptacle and reserve.

Octopus tentacles on the grill
Octopus tentacles on the grill

Now, lightly brush the tentacles and grill over high flame, or on a ridged grill pan at high heat, until the outside is just starting to char. This will take 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Once done, set aside and keep warm.

Finishing the sauce for Mediterranean Octopus
Finishing the sauce for Mediterranean Octopus

Finally, heat a generous glug of good olive oil in you pan and quickly saute the finely minced garlic clove until translucent. Add the diced tomato and, after a minute or so, add back the reduction. When it is hot, stir in the chopped parsley and remove from the heat.

Slice the tentacles as desired and arrange attractively in a suitable dish. Pour over reduction and garnish as desired.

This dish can either be served piping hot, warm, or at room temperature …

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!