Chow Town

Cooking octopus at home the Lidia way

The raw octopus is lowered into the pot.
The raw octopus is lowered into the pot.

If you’ve tried the grilled octopus at Lidia’s Kansas City, you can tell Lidia Bastianich knows her way around a cephalopod.

Being the kind of cook who likes to tackle unusual recipes, I recently tried out another one of her preparations at home: Braised Octopus. It took a little bit of time, but couldn’t have been easier.

It was a real knockout, near the top of my list in its flavor-to-effort ratio. If you’re one of those eaters who gets icked out by tentacles, it may not be for you, though.

I used a single octopus that was a bit over 2 pounds. I purchased mine at the Price Chopper at Vivion and North Oak in the Northland. Most grocery stores’ fish counters can order one for you if you plan ahead a few days. In the Midwest, it will be frozen solid, and will take a couple of days to thaw in the meat drawer of your refrigerator.

A few notes on the recipe as listed:

▪ I used vastly less than the 6 tablespoons of olive oil called for. The final result was still rich and had a silky texture. It would be great with the full amount of the oil, I have no doubt.

▪ The recipe calls for “peperonciono,” which I take to mean peperoncino, AKA chilis. But it doesn’t specify which kind, nor do the instructions say how to use them. However, I’m not usually a big fan of a spicy kick in a dish such as this, so I omitted them.

▪ It calls for Taggascia olives, which I think is a different spelling of Taggiasca. They are smallish, purple cured olives. I didn’t have any, but I used my overabundance of Castelvetranos. Any mild, fleshy olive would work.

▪ I see no reason to use a separate skillet to reduce the sauce after the octopus is cooked. Why dirty a second vessel? I got great results with the same 4-quart pan I braised in.

▪ When Lidia instructs you to salt judiciously, she means it. This one needed not one crystal extra.