Access to fresh sea food is probably one of the main advantages of living in Portugal, especially if you learn how to cook it well or find yourself a partner that is a genius at cooking it for you. Which is pretty much what I did. And so, this #homemadeMonday is about tips and tricks for preparing and cooking octopus.
Normally, I would always recommend buying fresh as opposed to frozen sea food, fish or meat. However, when we´re talking about octopus things change a bit. Even if you buy the octopus fresh, it´s best to freeze it immediately, unfreeze it again and freeze and unfreeze it for a second time. You can do the process only once of course, but we´ve found that two times is ideal. So buying it frozen at least shortens the time you´ll take with this whole process. Now if you´re thinking this sounds awfully odd, let me explain why all the fuss with the freezing and unfreezing. When you freeze the octopus, the cold makes the cells expand and as such breaks down the membranes around them. As a consequence the meat softens and gets the perfect consistency when you cook it! If you don´t believe me, just observe the fishermen when they fish octopuses. You´ll notice them hitting the animals on rocks at the beach to break down the membranes of the cells. I find the sight very disturbing and savage though, and when you buy it in the supermarket you never know if the fishermen have done that already, so I prefer to do the freeze-unfreeze method at home.
Another tip: you do not need to cook the octopus much before putting it in the oven. While most recipes will recommend you cook the octopus for 30-40 minutes, 5 minutes just to “stiffen” it a bit is more than enough. Hell, you can even skip this is you´re in a rush!
As for how to cook it, there´s two options which I particularly recommend. One is barbecuing it (as I´ll show you next time we cook octopus) and the other is cooking it in the oven with a looooot of olive oil, which is what we did today. So without further ado, here´s the recipe.
eight small to medium sized potatoes
500 g octopus
200 ml olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the potatoes in half and add them to a boiling pot of water with a pinch of salt, boiling them for 20 minutes. Note: since this dish will go in the oven, you can technically skip the boiling of the potatoes and just leave them longer in the oven, but I feel this is faster and results in the ideal consistency for both potatoes and octopus.
2. While you´re boiling the potatoes, also boil the octopus for five minutes. Note: as I mentioned above, you can also skip this step if you want to save time.
3. Chop the onion while you´re pre-heating the oven at 180 degrees.
4. Add the chopped onion along with the olive oil in a ceramic oven tray.
5. Once the potatoes are boiled, add them to the tray, placing them on the sides, salting and peppering them and finally adding the octopus in the middle.
6. Let everything cook in the oven for 40 minutes before serving along the dish with a glass of white wine.