Chef Gary Wood of Ernie's Italian Chophouse on How to Make Grilled Octopus | Clean Plate Charlie | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Chef Gary Wood of Ernie's Italian Chophouse on How to Make Grilled Octopus

"We sell more octopus than anyone I know of in Florida," claims Ernie Patti, owner of Ernie's Italian Chophouse in Lighthouse Point. 

Although the veracity of that statement cannot be determined at this time, Clean Plate Charlie recently spoke with Patti and Ernie's Italian Chophouse executive chef, Gary Wood, about some of the restaurant's signature dishes, and one of the plates that made frequent appearances in the conversation was the grilled octopus small plate ($20). (Read more about Ernie's and Wood's backgrounds here.) 

During the interview, Wood shared his method for preparing said octopus. If you're looking for something a little bit different to grill up for Dad this Sunday, try his recipe, after the jump. 

"We went through many different recipes," Wood said of the popular dish, which evolved over time. His instructions below are more of a loose guideline instead of rigid steps, but one can get a solid idea of his technique based on his tips for preparing the sometimes challenging cephalopod. (Before you begin, it might be helpful to watch a tutorial on how to clean octopus here, if this is your first time working with the sea creature.) 

Cook the octopus before you put it on the grill by braising or simmering it in just a bit of water until tender. A guideline: If the octopus is four to six pounds, cook it for about two to two-and-a-half hours. Then leave it to set overnight, with everything intact. 

Once you're ready to make the meal, start by preparing the salad to accompany the octopus. Cook cannellini beans (Wood favors dried legumes that have soaked overnight) in a basic mirepoix (stock) of carrot, celery, onion, plus garlic and bay leaf, and simmer everything until tender. This will be served with a bed of arugula, shaved red onion, and a warm limoncello vinaigrette. The vinaigrette dressing is made using a three-to-one ratio with three parts blended olive oil to one part limoncello. If using three cups of olive oil to one cup limoncello, add one tablespoon of sugar "to balance the alcohol," plus a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.    

Now you're ready for the octopus. "Once it rests overnight, you throw it on the grill and [the overnight rest] keeps everything attached, so that it doesn't fall apart and doesn't stick to the grill," Wood said. He said it's important to respect the creature every step of the way. 

"It comes from the sea -- don't mess with it...," Wood said. "I don't season it when it goes on the grill." 

To serve, pour the vingagrette over the octopus with just a little going over the beans. 

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Tricia Woolfenden

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