This elegant octopus salad strikes the right balance between refreshingly light and richly comforting, making it an impressive choice for any occasion. As intimidating as it may seem, preparing octopus at home is easier than you’d think. Octopus can be found at specialty grocery stores (such as Whole Foods), fish markets, and Asian or international markets. The key to preparing this wow-worthy seafood at home is giving the meat a preliminary cook (no matter how you intend to proceed in preparing it) in order to tenderize the meat. In this recipe, we first simmer the octopus in a flavorful, aromatic-filled cooking liquid and finish the cooking process by marinating the pre-cooked octopus in a citrusy vinaigrette. This marinade infuses flavor and continues to break down the protein for a tender, delicious bite. Just be sure not to leave the octopus soaking in the marinade for longer than suggested, as the acid will begin to deteriorate the quality of the meat. That said, the octopus can be poached and refrigerated up to a few days in advance if you want to prep ahead. Similar to kefir, labne is a tangy-rich yogurt cheese that can be found at a Mediterranean, Greek, or Lebanese market or in some specialty grocery stores. Labne is also incredibly easy to make at home if you have trouble finding it already prepared.
For the Octopus
1 (3- to 5-lb) octopus, cleaned (beak and ink sack removed)
6 cups water, or more if necessary to cover octopus
2 cups white wine with cork (Chardonnay recommended)
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 fennel bulb, cut into quarters
1 leek, cut in halve lengthwise
1 garlic bulb, 1 inch sliced off the top
3 bay leaves
1 lemon, halved
For the Marinade
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
For the Radicchio-Fennel Salad
1 head radicchio, torn into 2-inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced vertically
1 navel or blood orange, segmented
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup prepared labne
flaky sea salt
Baguette or flatbread for serving
How to Make It
To prepare the octopus, use kitchen sheers or a sharp knife to separate the tentacles from the head by cutting just above the area where the legs come together (above the beak). At this point, you can divide the tentacles or leave whole.
Combine water, wine, peppercorns, salt, fennel, leek, garlic, bay leaves, and lemon in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add octopus to pan; simmer for 45-60 minutes (15-20 minutes per pound of octopus), until very tender when pierced with knife.
Turn off heat and, keeping the octopus submerged; let come to room temperature.
Remove octopus from the liquid. With a damp paper towel, wipe away skin and peel away the gelatinous, fatty layer from the meat. Chill meat until ready to use (the octopus can be prepped up to 3 days ahead).
To make the marinade, combine all ingredients in a medium glass bowl. Whisk well to combine. Thinly slice octopus (about ¼- to ½-inch pieces) and add to the mixture. Refrigerate octopus mixture for 30-45 minutes.
To prepare the salad, combine the first 6 ingredients (through mint) in a large bowl. Add marinated octopus and ¼ cup of marinade mixture to bowl; toss to combine.
To serve, spread labne onto a large serving plate and top with the tossed salad. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Serve with crusty baguette or flatbread.
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