Friday, 5 April 2013

Pulpo a la Gallega - Galician octopus

Though I have eaten this many times (last time was in that chiringuito in Torremolinos) I had never actually cooked it myself. And not least because of what it looks like...

Oh well... perhaps it's got a really nice personality?

Owing to it's massive size I expected the preparation to be an operation of equally massice proportions; one that would call for the tactical assistance of EU peace keeping forces. Luckily that wasn't the case. Though it did take its time.

I opted for the smallest specimen at the fish counter but even that was the size of a football. Cooking any member of the squid-family comes with the risk of rubberiness, especially this big fella. A couple of tips come in handy in order to make sure the end result will be tender. Too bad those are the tips I never learnt at school...

First of all it's recommended that you freeze it for at least 24 hours. This too helps tenderize the meat. Then you let it thaw overnight. Then you rinse it. Then we'll get to the exciting part and even I don't always know which is genuinely helpful and what is just... old wive's tales.

I have heard that you should add a cork into the water you cook it in. In some instructions I've heard of pounding it with a mallet before cooking to ensure tenderness.

In Tunisia I was told the creature should be put in cold water which you then bring to boil. In Spain I was told to scare it 3 times in boiling water. Yep - scare something that looks like that...

And this is how it's done: Bring water to boil in a big pot. Then immerse the octopus in the water for a second and lift it out and giggle at the way it starts to shrink and curl up (makes me sound like a bit of a sociopath, doesn't it?). This is then repeated 2 times so that before each immersion you let the water start bubbling again. After you've scared the shit out of the octopus for 3 times you lower the temperature so it merely simmers, place the octopus in the pot and let it gently cook until it's tender. Depending on the size this takes 45 minutes to an hour. Mine, tipping the scales at half a kilo (and then some) I cooked for 35 minutes. At this point the appearance was actually starting to evoke some affection in me.

I mean... it is kind of pretty.
And the fact that it's pink doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it.

After this you let it cool. In Tunisia this was instructed to do with immersing it in ice water. In Spain I was told to just cool. On it's own. In it's own time. Before serving though the Spanish instructions tell to keep it in the fridge for at least an hour. Then you cut it diagonally to bite-size chunks and serve it on a bed of boiled potatos, olive oil, salt and pimiento powder.

I chose to fry the pimiento and some garlic powder in oil to avoid the sort of dry, powdery sensation and poured it over the dish.

As the name would indicate, this dish is originally from Galicia in Northern Spain but has become a tapas favourite all over the country. As tapa this half a kilo monster would feed 4. As a racion it's enough for 2.

And for those, who'd rather explore the wonders of the oceans somewhere other than on their plates, there's Sea Life aquarium at the Marina in Arroyo de la Miel!

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