There was a time when Americans were squeamish about eating octopus, but now this is a favorite and a staple on the menu at Felidia. Octopus has come of age as a delicious ingredient, and any respectable restaurant has an appetizer that includes it; at my house, it has always been popular, even with the kids. This salad can be made in advance, but just keep in mind that the potatoes get hard and waxy when refrigerated, so refrigerate the octopus but leave the potatoes at room temperature. You can toss them together just before serving. Your fishmonger (or supermarket fish counter) will often have tenderized octopus, which most likely has been defrosted. Usually an octopus weighs about 2 or 3 pounds, but shrinks to half its original size when cooked. For this recipe I recommend Idaho potatoes, but it’s nice to mix these up with whatever is in season, be it Red Bliss, fingerlings, or the Purple Peruvian Potatoes that are now all the rage.
- 2- to-3- pound octopus, cleaned
- 1 wine cork
- 2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 medium Idaho potatoes, whole
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Lemon wedges for garnish
Place the octopus, wine cork, bay leaves, and salt and pepper in a large pot. Cover generously with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cook the octopus at a vigorous simmer until tender but slightly al dente, about 25 minutes. (Test periodically by inserting the tines of a fork into the thickest part of the octopus. It is done when the fork penetrates easily and is removed with only a little resistance.)
Meanwhile, cover the potatoes with cold water in a second pot, and bring to a boil. Cook about 25 minutes, until just tender, then cool, peel, and cut them into 1- inch cubes. Drain the octopus, discarding the bay leaves and cork.
Cut the tentacles away where they join the head. Clean the octopus head, which looks like a pouch the size of your fist, by squeezing out the core with your fingers, and cut the meat into thin slices. Cut the tentacles into inch- long pieces, and toss the octopus pieces with the warm potatoes.
Toss with the olive oil, red- wine vinegar, onion, and parsley. Place on a plate, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve.