Every once in a while Christina and I get adventurous. We like to dabble with new ingredients and spend our Friday nights under the looming presence of potential failure. Sometimes we fail, other times we succeed, but we always learn something and it pays off in the long run.
One day I decided to surprise Christina with a beautiful 3 course dinner with wine pairings (wasn't any special occasion, just felt like she deserved something nice) and I really wanted to take a stab at something she had never seen come out of our kitchen. I kept her guessing for a week and she thought it would be escargot or lobster, but I had decided to try my luck with octopus.
Octopus is inherently VERY chewy, and takes a while to break down. So don't be put off by the number of steps in this particular recipe or how long the time says, its really not all that bad. The reason the octopus needs so much time is that by soaking it in water and wine it breaks down the chewiness and makes the octopus prime for a nice char on a hot grill, searing in incredible flavors and setting up this awesome salad.
Start by getting a big pot of water ready to boil. Quarter the onion and slice up the carrot and celery. This is a basic mirepoix mixture used in most soups as a starter. Add in the 2 cups of red wine to help the octopus get some flavor and if you want to toss in some chili powder or red wine vinegar it will also impart a nice flavor profile, but they are hardly necessary ingredients. Get the broth to a boil by setting it to high heat.
While the broth heats up, start by cleaning the octopus and by cleaning I mean everything but the tentacles. I try to keep the body intact with the tentacles attached, but if its easier to just cut them off separate now it won't be the end of the world, just possibly harder to find them all once they are done softening.
When the octopus are cleaned, drop them into the boiling water. Once they are in, turn down the temperature to a simmer and cover. This will need to stay covered for AT LEAST one hour to soften the octopus, and stirring occasionally will help them to get even heat in the pot.
While the octopus cook, set your oven to broil and core the red pepper getting it ready for the oven. Broil it until it starts to blacken and remove it from the oven. Slice it into very thin strips and set aside.
Slice the potatoes very thin (almost like potato chips) and in a large skillet, add some olive oil, salt, and pepper and turn it to medium-high heat. Sear the potatoes until golden brown on each side and cooked through.
As an hour as now passed on your cooking journey, and you are hopefully trying the Mencia wine we suggested above, strain out the tentacles from the broth and if they are not already, slice off each tentacle away from the body so each tentacle is by itself. On the grill or in a cast iron pan, char the octopus on high heat until they begin to carbonize (turn black). I recommend cast iron or an actual grill since it will give them a flavor you can't get from a normal skillet.
Either in the same cast iron skillet, or the large skillet used earlier for the potatoes, add together the potatoes, peppers, and octopus to heat them all up together. Add in the minced garlic and sauté together for 2-3min or until hot.
While still hot, add into a large salad bowl with the arugula and mix together. The heat will help calm the arugula's bite and soften it up as well. If you have it, squeeze some lemon over the whole bowl and stir one less time. Serve in individual bowls and per usual... enjoy your face off.