Octopus can be very tough and bland, but when you cook it sous-vide it will be tender and flavorful. I wrote about sous-vide octopus (Insalata di Polpo) before, but since octopus sous-vide is so good and I saw a nice idea on GialloZafferano that enables you to slice the octopus more thinly, I decided to write about it some more. The photos on GZ suggest that you can actually get slices of octopus ‘sausage’, but since there is no ‘glue’ to hold them together that doesn’t happen and the slices fall apart. It still looks great, and the thin slices make the octopus even more tender. It would be nice to think of something to make them stick together, because it would look even nicer that way.
For 6 servings as an appetizer
2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) octopus
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries
6 black pepper corns
2 celery stalks
extra virgin olive oil
fresh flatleaf parsley
Roughly chop the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaves.
Season the octopus ligthly with salt. Put the octopus in 1 or 2 sous-vide pouches with the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, juniper berries, and pepper corns. I used zip pouches because the octopus releases a lot of liquid and can therefore be difficult to seal with a FoodSaver-type vacuum sealer.
Cook sous-vide for 5 to 7 hours at 77C/170F. The octopus will release a lot of liquid, that is normal.
Drain the octopus and remove all the vegetables and spices.
Cut the top of a plastic water bottle (preferably still water) and punch a few small holes in the bottom. Put the octopus legs in the bottle as vertically and with as little space remaining in between as possible.
Use a wine bottle or something else (that you cleaned first) to push down on the octopus in the plastic bottle.
Cut incisions into the top using scissors, about 1 cm or 1/2 inch apart.
Fold the tops towards the middle to close the top.
Wrap in plastic wrap and put something heavy on top. Refrigerate for 24 hours with some kitchen paper underneath to catch the liquid that will come out.
Remove most of the plastic bottle, keep only about 5 cm (2 inches) of the bottom end for a hold.
Slice as thinly as possible (1-2 mm or 15-25 slices per inch), preferably using a slicing machine if you have one.
Make a dressing to taste out of extra virgin olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and salt. Add some minced garlic if you like.
Serve with the dressing and a slice of lemon.
I recently had this dish in Varazze in Liguria, where it was served with some chopped fresh tomatoes as well and I thought that was a nice touch that I will add myself next time I’ll make this.