The secret to good octopus is to braise it slowly. Large octopus caught fresh is very tough, these days it is sold tumbled which is a process that begins the tenderising. Most recipes suggest braising in a well flavoured water, however, I prefer to braise in oil. This method was taught to me by Cheong Liew some twenty years ago and has the added bonus of producing octopus oil and a delicious stock that can be used in seafood stews and pasta sauces. Octopus makes a great addition to an antipasto platter. The braised octopus tentacles can be cut into bite sized chunks.
or made into a terrine as suggested in Stefano Manfredi's book Italian Food, page 144
Or added to seafood stews and pasta dishes along with some of the delicious octopus stock that you have after it is cooked.
How to Braise Octopus
Purchase the octopus from the fish supplier, I usually purchase a whole octopus, however, many will sell a tentacle or two. A whole octopus can be quite large, this one was approximately three kilos. The octopus shrinks quite a bit during the cooking process. Braised octopus can be frozen, however, it must be thawed in the refrigerator and is best used in seafood dishes. It can also be packed into sterilised jars with some pickling liquid and refrigerated for later use as suggested in this recipe for Pickled Octopus
Cut the octopus unto individual tentacles
Then trim up the ends, I also trim the loose skin from around the tentacles.
Use a large deep pot. Add two cups of grape seed oil, 5 - 6 cloves of peeled garlic and a bay leaf or two and heat until garlic starts to sizzle. Cheong also adds olives but I do not bother. Chillies could also be added.
Carefully lower tentacles into the pot. Simmer until octopus is tender at the thickest point, an hour or a bit longer. The octopus will shrink, release quite a bit of liquid and change colour. When cooked, turn off heat and allow the octopus to cool in the oil.
When cool, remove the octopus and place in a clean bowl and refrigerate until needed or as the recipe requires.
I carefully pour off the oil to use again or for seafood stir fry, stews, pasta sauces and risotto. The liquid left in the pot can be reduced down and frozen. I use takeaway food containers, add the reduced stock and then freeze. The stock is quite gelatinous and will set like a jelly. Use the stock in seafood pasta, risotto and stews, it adds an extra depth of flavour and body to the sauce.
A container of octopus stock added to the sauce for this braised octopus with chickpeas.