While in South Beach I had a delicious octopus dish at Sardinia. Since then I have searched articles on the preparation of this cephalopod. My previous experience with the octopus had been in sushi restaurants where I found the flesh a bit chewy and a little crunchy. Chewy I can handle. Crunchy, well I haven't acquired a taste as of yet. You know us Americans are all put off by texture. I read many recipes from the internet and had also read an article by Mark Bittman and then Harold McGee on how to prepare a tender octopus. Having read Harold reference book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, I felt his advise was most trusted.
So I was in my local Asian market and they had sushi grade octopus which got me curious and inspired me to give it a try. The octopus at the Asian market was quite expensive and I did pick some up to eat raw, I keep trying, but headed to a local grocery store where I had remembered they sold frozen octopus. I picked up a package that contained 4 sections each with a little body and three arms attached and allowed it to thaw in the fridge.
Per McGee, the best results are had when dry cooking the octopus in a pot in the oven with a tight lid. He also found that long simmering made for a tender octopus that lacked flavor.
He instructs to first blanch the meat for 30 seconds in boiling water. I did this in salted water as his instruction did not specify. The octopus went into a dutch oven with no liquid or seasonings. He suggest baking low and slow @ 200* for 4-5 hours and allowing it to cool in it's own juices, which were abundant. At 3 1/2 hours I took a sample to check for tenderness. Fairly tender but at 4 hours it was very tender. McGee suggest that the liquid be reduced to concentrate the flavors and the collagen from the skin helps to make a nice thick sauce. I had the meat on a plate and coated with olive oil and placed it on the hot out door gas grill which had wood smoking. It was grilled for a short time. Just enough time to pick up some grill/smoke flavor. It was served simply on the sauce and with some very good EVOO. I have to say it exceeded my expectations. Very tender and flavorful.
So if you have ever fretted over making octopus and have had less than expected results give this a try.
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