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A Lesson In Grilling the Perfect Octopus

One of the most famous summer mezedes served in Greek fish taverns is octopus. It is a perfect plate to accompany ouzo and wine. The most common recipe for octopus in fish taverns is the grilled version, according to which the octopus, which is often fresh, is grilled over charcoal and seasoned with fresh lemon. But grilling is not enough, as octopus needs special preparation in order to be tender and properly grilled.

The fisherman traps the octopus and kills it by cutting a nerve between the animal’s eyes. Then the octopus should be beaten on a rock up to 100 times to wring out the water. This procedure is very important, in order for the meat to be tender when grilled. If the octopus is grilled directly with its water, it will steam it into a rubbery mass.
Then the fresh octopus should be hung for many hours on a clothesline to dry in the sun. Usually the fishermen hang their catch first thing in the morning and they do not take it down until the evening. Some people even boil the octopus before grilling it to make it tender.
In the old times, when there weren’t freezers, people used to sun the octopus for many days, until it became tiny and they put it in a small carafe. In this way they stored the food and the octopus expanded to its original size when cooked.
On his popular food blog, Kalofagas, Peter Minakis, a Greek-Canadian food writer, recommends to those who do not live on the Greek islands to braise a fresh or frozen octopus until it’s about half its original size. He often adds a wine cork to help make it smaller.
The octopus should be cooked on the grill for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the time it has been drying in the sun.
When cooked it should be seasoned with lemon and then,  it’s ready to accompany ouzo and wine. A traditional, “sunny”, light summer plate!

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