Serve with ice-cold glasses of ouzo, of course.
1 1/2- to 2-pound octopus, cleaned
1 3/4 cups ouzo
3 cups water
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 medium onion, sliced
8 sprigs of fresh thyme plus thyme leaves for garnish
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice plus lemon wedges for garnish
olive oil for brushing on octopus
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Place the octopus in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of the ouzo and the water (the liquid should just cover the octopus). Add the garlic cloves, onion, cloves, and sprigs of thyme. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 45 minutes, or until the octopus is tender.
2. Remove octopus from the liquid, cut into serving portions (keep the tentacles whole, cut the top part into slices), and place in a small bowl. Cover with the remaining 1/4 cup of ouzo and the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
3. Boil the liquid in which the octopus was cooked until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Strain into a small saucepan, cover, and refrigerate until ready to grill octopus.
4. When ready to grill octopus, prepare a hot charcoal fire. Remove octopus from marinade, brush with olive oil, and place on fire. Cook until nicely grilled on the exterior of each piece, about 4 minutes per side. Place grilled octopus pieces on a platter and sprinkle with a few drops of ouzo.
5. Bring the reduced cooking liquid to a boil in the small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of the octopus marinade, and boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, and swirl in the butter. As soon as the sauce has thickened, pour it over grilled octopus, and scatter thyme leaves over all. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
One of the nice things about cooking octopus is this: after it's tenderized through a 45-minute simmer, you can then cook it further in other ways, adding new dimension to it. Greek chefs love to grill it -- and the smoky essence contributed by an open fire is a wonderful marriage with the inherent octopus flavor. Add to this the great anise-flavor of ouzo, a fiery Greek distillate, and you've got a sure winner. Serve with ice-cold glasses of ouzo, of course. Serves 4 as a first course.