Braising is the key to tenderizing the notoriously tough flesh of the octopus. Chef Williamson uses an aromatic vegetable broth as her braising liquid. Some chefs even add a wine cork to their braising liquid, claiming that it possesses an enzyme that enhances the tenderizing process.
Charred Baby Octopus Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (1 oz.) fresh flat-leaf parsley with stems
- 6 medium cloves garlic, halved
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. baby octopuses (about 10) cleaned, heads and tentacles separated
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 6 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 2 red jalapeño or Fresno chiles, thinly sliced into rings and seeded
- 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbs. honey
- 1-1/2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
- 1/2 tsp. lime zest
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 large (about 1 lb.) head romaine, chopped
- 2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium peach, pitted and chopped
- 1 red plum or pluot, pitted and cut into thin wedges
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, and parsley; more for garnish
- In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, combine the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, garlic, cayenne, and 1 Tbs. salt with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Add the octopuses, reduce to a simmer, and cover with the lid ajar; cook until fork-tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and let the octopuses cool in the braising liquid until they become cool enough to handle, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 tsp. of salt and the jalapeño. Let the jalapeño soak for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
- Remove the octopuses from the braising liquid, drain, and pat dry. Season with paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil on high until shimmering. Add the octopuses and cook until they become caramelized and deep golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Reserve 6 Tbs. of the jalapeño pickling liquid in a small bowl; strain the jalapeño and set aside. Whisk the lime juice, honey, mustard, lime zest, cumin, and garlic into the reserved liquid. Slowly whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, avocado, peach, plum, herbs, and octopuses and lightly dress with the vinaigrette. Transfer to a large platter and garnish with the pickled jalapeños and additional herbs. Pass the remaining dressing at the table.