Saturday, May 6, 2017

Octopus with Chorizo and Potatoes

With a long coastline stretching across the northwestern part of Spain, Galicia is well known for its seafood.  Cockles, clams, shrimp, and even barnacles.  For me, however, what the Galicians have been able to do with octopus that is simple and amazing.  It is simple because it is just a few ingredients.  The octopus, paprika and potatoes.  Those three ingredients, bonded together with a very good olive oil, give rise to pulpo gallego or polbo a fiera, the traditional Galician octopus dish. 

The key to preparing octopus is in the tenderizing of the meat.  Generally, there are two ways to do that.  One could pound the heck out of the tentacles with a flat tenderizer.  I have never cared for this method.  Rather, I prefer the second method: to boil the tentacles.  There is a catch to this second method.  It is important to dip the octopus in the boiling water three times before submerging it in the boiling water.  The dipping of the tentacles helps to set the tentacles (in other words, helps to keep them from curling to much).  It also helps to protect the skin during the cooking process. 

Once you get the cooking technique down, cooking octopus is very easy and it is an ingredient that I have worked with on a few occasions.  

Recently, I was looking for Spanish recipes for octopus and came across one from Food & Wine.  This recipe takes the ingredients of the classic polbo a fiera and goes one step further.  A Catalonian step.  The recipe adds chorizo, which most likely originated in Catalonia, to the Galician combination of octopus, paprika and potatoes.  The addition of pork seems like a natural fit, providing not just additional flavors, but also an added level of richness to a great dish.   

Recipe from Food & Wine
Serves 4

1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 3/4 pound of octopus tentacles
3/4 pound of potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 ounces of cured Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 teaspoons of thyme, chopped

1.  Prepare the octopus.   Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil with the onion and bay leaves.  Using tongs, carefully dip the octopus into the boiling water 3 times, then leave it in the water.  Cook the octopus over moderately low heat until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove from the heat and let the octopus stand in the water for 10 minutes.  Drain the water.  Cut the octopus into 1/2 inch pieces. 

2. Prepare the potatoes.  In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and add salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Toss the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the thyme.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Finish the dish.  In a grill pan, cook the chorizo over moderately high heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add the potatoes and octopus to the pan and cook until hot and the potatoes are golden in spots, about 5 minutes.  Add to the chorizo, season with salt and pepper and toss.  Drizzle a little more olive oil.  Serve immediately.


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