Recently my wife’s aunt Barbara was featured on a new online cooking show in her hometown of Queens, New York: Cooking with Granny. On the 11-minute video, she shows us how to make an authentic Greek octopus stew, and even shows us how to shop for just the right octopus at her local seafood market. Barbara was born on the Greek island of Paros and immigrated to New York as a young girl. Her eventual husband, John Aliprantis, was also a native of Paros, and a great fan of octopus stew. Barbara learned this recipe from her mother-in-law.
As Barbara explains, it’s important to buy octopus that has been previously frozen, or to freeze and then thaw it yourself at home. This tenderizes the meat and eliminates the need to pound the octopus with a meat tenderizer.
3 lbs raw octopus, frozen and then defrosted
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
Clean the octopus by cutting away the eyes, mouth, and internal membranes. Then wash it thoroughly, cut it into bite-size chunks, and drain any remaining moisture.
Gently sauté the chopped onion in olive oil until soft and translucent, being careful not to burn it. (Note: Extra-virgin olive oil burns and smokes easily. Be careful not to cook at too high a temperature.)
A professionally made octopus stew at the Yemeni restaurant on Paros
Add the chopped octopus, whole peppercorns, ground pepper, salt, and bay leaf, and stir to combine. Let simmer for a few minutes, and then add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Stir in wine and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice and/or fresh crusty bread.
Makes 3-4 servings