Sunday, March 07, 2010

How To Make An Octopus

Walking home from the Ginger Pig yesterday we poked our heads into the fishmonger's and I spotted octopus. I had never cooked an octopus before so we had a discussion with the lovely fishmonger and a 1.5lb octopus was purchased.

How To Cook an Octopus

How long is a piece of string? (C's note: This is a common British expression to express the inability to measure something abstract.)

Practical Suggestions from the internet and reference books:

1. Steam it in its own liquid
2. Braise it for hours
3. Pre-freeze it
4. Add a cork to the cooking liquid
5. Beat the octopus against a rock.

Hm. Ok.

I knew I wanted to do an octopus and potato salad, the way I'd eaten it in Italy but I also wasn't getting any super clear direction on how to do it so I took all the advice that made sense to me and made it my way. It worked. It was lovely. And so I will add my method to the internet's glut of how to cook an octopus. Without beating it.

How to Cook an Octopus like Leah did
(inspired by Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Harold McGee, and the Silver Spoon – thanks guys!)

I decided to go with the slow braising method. I made a broth of lemon zest, chili, garlic and parsley stalks (and water, obviously). And lots of salt. Brought that to a boil and plunged the octopus in, then turned it down to a barely there simmer for 1.5 hours.

Just as the octopus hit the water it curled up on itself, so I pulled it out so C could see and take a photo - so cool.

I tested the octopus, to see if it was tender, after an hour and a bit - it was, so I added thick slices of potato for the last fifteen minutes or so to cook until tender.

Turned off the heat and gingerly removed the potatoes, adding them to a bowl with a bit of lemon juice. I let the octopus cool down in the water, as suggested (apparently it helps it relax after the cooking process). Finally I took it out, chopped it up, tossed it with the potatoes. Voila dinner.

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