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OCTOPUSThis streamlined version of one of Marea’s most popular starters focuses on the components that have endeared it to so many of our guests: an unexpected touch of the grill (charred octopus, smoked potatoes, and grilled frisée), evoking casual summertime dining in a formal context, and an unconventional use of tuna sauce, the sauce classically served with Vitello Tonnato, which turns out to have a natural affinity with octopus. Saba vinegar, made with unfermented wine must, adds a sweet, almost prune-like flavor that is a sharp and welcome contrast to the smoky elements of this dish. If you do not own a smoker, you can skip the step of smoking the potatoes.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 1 octopus, about 3 pounds
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into large dice
  • 2 large celery stalks, trimmed and cut into large dice
  • 2 heads of garlic, halved horizontally, plus 2 large
  • garlic cloves, finely grated on a Microplane or very
  • finely minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • An herb sachet (½ bunch of thyme, 2 bay leaves,
  • preferably fresh, and 1 tablespoon whole black
  • peppercorns, tied in a cheesecloth bundle)
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, preferably assorted colors
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup sweet wood chips, such as pecan or cherry (optional)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus half the lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • Finely grated zest of ½ orange
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 0.25 cup olive oil
  • 5 French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
  • 0.5 cup Pickled Red Onions
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small heads of frisée, core removed and separated
  • into leaves
  • Tuna Sauce, thinned with 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water, until pourable
  • Saba vinegar, for serving (balsamic vinegar can be substituted)
How to Make It
  1. o cook the octopus: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the octopus in a roasting pan and add the onions, carrots, celery, 1 halved garlic head, the wine, and the herb sachet. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and roast until the octopus is tender to the tines of a fork, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and set aside to cool.
  3. When it is cool, remove the octopus from the pan and use a sharp knife to carefully cut the tentacles from the head,
  4. avoiding the beak. Set the tentacles aside and discard the head. Put the potatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and the remaining halved garlic head in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, discard the herbs and garlic, and set the potatoes aside to cool.
  5. If smoking the potatoes: Once the potatoes have cooled, transfer to a smoker filled with the wood chips and smoke for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the desired smokiness.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the smoker and let cool. Halve the potatoes lengthwise and set aside.
  7. To make the gremolata dressing: Put ½ cup of the parsley, the lemon zest, lime zest, orange zest, and grated garlic in a bowl. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and whisk together. Season with salt and the cayenne. Set aide.
  8. Heat a grill pan or a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Once the pan is very hot, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and tip and tilt the pan to coat it. Add the octopus tentacles and cook on one side for 3 minutes. Use tongs to turn the tentacles over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the octopus from the pan and drizzle or brush with some of the gremolata dressing, then return the tentacles to the pan for another minute. Transfer the octopus to a plate and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of gremolata dressing. Cover to keep warm. Set the pan aside.
  9. Heat a large heavy sauté pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, tipping and tilting the pan to coat it, and heat until the oil is shimmering and almost smoking. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the radishes, pickled onions, and the remaining gremolata dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the remaining ½ cup parsley.
  10. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the grill pan clean. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the frisée, season with salt, place a large skillet or heavy baking pan on top of the frisée, and cook until the lettuce chars slightly and wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Spread some tuna sauce onto the center of each of 4 plates. Top with some of the potato and pickled onion mixture. Add some frisée to each plate and drizzle with Saba vinegar. Top with the octopus and serve.

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