One of the nicest meals during our vacation in Yucatán, Mexico, was a lunch at La Palapa del Tio Fito in Campeche. From the large reed shack at the waterfront it is not immediately apparent that they really know how to cook. I ordered the Octopus Poc Chuc. Poc means to roast and Chuc means charcoal in Mayan, so this is octopus roasted over charcoal. Before it is marinated in Seville orange juice with herbs and parcooked. Tomatoes and red onions are roasted above the charcoal as well. The tomatoes are turned into a salsa and the onion is marinated in Seville orange juice. The salsa is nice and smoky. As often in Yucatán, it is served with corn tortillas, refried beans, habanero, and avocado. At Tio Fito it also came with some charcoal grilled Mexican chorizo, as well as a wedge of Seville orange.
I’ve parcooked the octopus sous vide, as that ensures it will be tender with maximum flavor. Octopus will always shrink considerably when it is cooked; that can’t be avoided, even with sous vide.
Seville oranjge is a more bitter/sour type of orange thatis used a lot in Mayan cooking and can be substituted by a mixture of regular orange juice and lime juice.
Serves 4 as a main course
- 1.2 kilos (3 lbs) octopus (tentacles or whole octopus)
- 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
- 2 Tbsp fresh minced thyme
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- juice of 1 orange and 1 lime, or juice of 2 Seville oranges
- olive oil to rub the octopus before roasting
- 4 plum tomatoes
- fresh cilantro
- 2 red onions, quartered
- juice of 1 orange and 1 lime (or 2 Seville oranges)
- refried beans
- corn tortillas
- habanero salsa (click here for the recipe)
To make the marinade, mix the oregano, thyme, garlic powder, black peppercorns, and orange/lime juice.
Place the octopus in a large bowl with the marinade and mix well.
Octopus is often sold with added salt. If you have fresh octopus without any added salt, this is the right time to add salt.
Vacuum seal the octopus using a chamber vacuum machine, or use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method. The octopus with the marinade is too moist to use an external vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver.
Cook the octopus sous vide for 4 hours at 85C/185F.
Take the cooked octopus out of the bag and discard the liquid. Allow the octopus to cool.
Pat the octopus dry with paper towels and rub it with olive oil before grilling. Start a charcoal fire and wait until it is nice and hot.
Roast the tomatoes and onions first, as they take more time and the octopus overcooks easily. The tomatoes and onions will cook more easily by using a cover that will temper the heat from below and will turn the grill into an oven.
The tomatoes are done when the skin is a bit charred and bursts.
Remove the skin and place the tomatoes in a blender or food processor, together with a teaspoon of salt and a handful of cilantro (leaves only).
Blend on low speed or use the ‘pulse’, to end up with a coarse salsa. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
The onions are done if they have softened somewhat and have been charred.
Chop the onions and marinate them with orange/lime juice and salt.
Grill the octopus quickly over high heat, without using a cover, until lightly charred. Do not overcook the octopus, because then it will turn out dry.
The octopus should be crispy and slightly charred, but not burnt to a crisp.
Serve the octopus with corn tortillas, refried beans, avocado, the red onion, tomato salsa, and habanero salsa.
At wine pairing dinners I’ve organized at home for friends and family, we’ve tried the following wines with this dish:
- Vidal-Fleury Condrieu AOC 2019 (100% Viognier, France, Rhone)
- Vidal-Fleury C?tes du Rh?ne AOC 2021 (75% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, France, Rhone)
- Ceraudo Grisara 2020 (100% Pecorello, Italy, Calabria)
- Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner Smaragd 2021 (100% Grüner Veltliner, Austria, Wachau)
- Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Surrau Sciala 2021 (100% Vermentino, Italy, Sardinia)
- Castro Candaz Ribeira Sacra DO La Vertical 2020 (100% Godello, Spain, Galicia)
All of these are full bodied white wines with relatively low acidity and not too dry. The best combination was the Condrieu, a fantastic wine and also fantastic with the dish. The same winery also produces a much cheaper C?tes du Rh?ne of almost the same grape varieties from almost the same area, but not from the area of the Condrieu appellation contr?lée and therefore at a lower price point. That wine is not as complex, but matches the dish almost as well. The Vermentino and Pecorello were also good matches for the dish. The Godello and Grüner Veltliner did not work as well when using the spicy habanero, because the acidity in those wines accentuates the spiciness.