Let’s be honest — an octopus can be a little scary to look at. Even when prepared well, seafood fans can get startled by the big suction cups. However, the biggest surprise is how delicious octopus can be when prepared by a knowledgeable chef.
Octopus has the reputation for being a bit chewy, however, when properly cooked, it’s tender. Don’t shy away from frozen octopus. The freezing and thawing process kick starts the tenderization. If you are cooking octopus at home, buy frozen and thaw it to give yourself a head start in creating a tender dish. The Italians swear that you have to include the cork when cooking octopus in wine; and apparently some professional chefs abide by this bit of cooking voodoo.
Octopus is an especially versatile seafood. Of course, octopus goes well with Asian spices like lemongrass. However, octopus meat pairs well with northern Italian ingredients like olives, tomatoes, and celery. Octopus pairs well with almost any starch. Rice is the most common starch to pair with seafood; but potatoes also provide a nice carb-heavy texture to octopus dishes. Some chefs have gone as far as adding a variation of the Middle-Eastern favorite, hummus; ground chickpeas have found their way to octopus dishes recently.
If you are looking for something more daring, you can look for restaurants that serve up octopus the way they do in Asian fish markets — live. Koreans love to enjoy a live baby octopus. Warm and tender, yes. But not for the faint of heart.
Restaurants have found that diners love wood-grilled octopus, adding significant spice to the heavily charred meat. Boiling and poaching are still the most common way to cook this sea creature.