Simple Grilled Octopus

This grilled and braised octopus dish is inspired by Baja California's Japanese population.
Photo by Penny De Los Santos / Food and prop styling by Frances Boswell

Courtesy Javier Plascencia, chef/owner, Finca Altozano, Valle de Guadalupe

This modestly named octopus dish is boiled, grilled, marinated and braised, but the entire process is quite simple and can even be done in stages. Soy sauce, ponzu sauce and saké reflect the culinary contributions of Baja’s Japanese population.

The Chef

Javier Plascencia

Plascencia is perhaps the best-known chef in Baja California, often credited with its emergence as a culinary destination. One of his six restaurants, Finca Altozano is an asador campestre, or country grill. The open-air restaurant is set among vineyards with animals that roam the grounds. It also boasts what may be the most extensive list of Baja wines in the country.

Three Recipes and Pairings from Baja California
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds octopus tentacles, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons)
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup ponzu sauce
  • 1 cup saké
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
Directions

In large stockpot, combine octopus, garlic and bay leaves with enough water to cover octopus by 1 inch. Boil gently, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Add enough salt so broth tastes pleasantly salty.

Boil 20–30 minutes, or until octopus pierces easily with fork. Let cool in pot, then remove octopus and pat dry. This can be done up to 3 days in advance. If so, cover octopus and store in refrigerator.

Prepare grill on high heat, or use grill pan over high heat. Grill octopus until charred but not burnt, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Slice diagonally into 1-inch pieces.

In large bowl, combine 1¾ cups lemon juice, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Add octopus, stir to coat and refrigerate for 1–4 hours.

When ready to serve, remove octopus from marinade. Place in large sauté pan with ponzu, saké, remaining lemon juice and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid reduces by half. Remove from heat. Add remaining butter, and stir until melted. Serve garnished with cilantro and peanuts. Serves 4.

Pair It

Lechuza 2017 Acero Inoxidable Chardonnay (Valle de Guadalupe). Acero inoxidable is Spanish for stainless steel, and it distinguishes this Chard from Lechuza’s oak-aged “Chardonnay Roble.” It’s a bright, fresh wine with a tropical citrus nose and a subtly creamy texture. The crispness of unoaked Chardonnay is a welcome contrast to the deep flavors of soy, peanuts, and char from the grill.

“I tried Kristin’s wine with this dish, and it was perfect,” says Plascencia. “The combination of citrus and butter in the sauce reflects those flavors in the wine.”

The Winemaker

Kristin Shute

Shute’s parents started to plant what would become Lechuza Vineyard in 2005, not long after a dinner at the pioneering restaurant Laja jumpstarted their love affair with the region. Shute and her husband, Adam, followed in 2013, and they took the reins upon her father’s death two years ago. Shute considers herself an ambassador for both sides of the border and makes the winery available for customized private events.

Published on February 21, 2019
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.

Email: nbernstein@wineenthusiast.net



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