Octopus Galician-Style – Mediterranean Diet in New York City
Preparing a good dish of octopus is not difficult but it certainly takes some skills. Being born in Galicia, the Northwestern region of Spain, —one of the most beautiful places in the world with one of the best seafood of the world, I can say Gallegos are a bit ‘obsessed’ about cooking our octopus. This fascinating, mysterious and highly intelligent creature of the deep is found in the warm and more temperate waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Octopus is been known since ancient times for its remarkable appearance and its amazing defense mechanisms, like shooting a jet of ink to cover its retreat and changing the color of skin as if a flashing neon sign.
Growing up in Galicia I got my first culinary memories and flavors from the popular seafood houses called “Pulperías” specialized in serving Galician ‘Pulpo a Feria’. Today every tapas bar in Galicia features this dish of boiled, paprika-scented octopus with potatoes, a signature of Galician culinary specialties.
As a chef, I find octopus a delicacy of flavor and texture when cooked correctly and prepared appropriately. Traditionally Galician-style octopus is cooked inside a copper cauldron and before actually boiling it the octopus is repeatedly dipped in and out of the boiling water, held by its head. The purpose of this operation is to curl the tips of the tentacles.
The secret is to cook the octopus very slowly in a pot of lively boiling water abundantly salted. Once in the boiling water, you want to simmer it for an hour, hour and a half for the octopus to become tender. While the octopus is cooking, you can also bring along the sliced potatoes to boil for some fifteen-twenty minutes. Potatoes can be prepared in big chunks as they do in the traditional pulperías of Galicia or in thing slices to nest the octopus medallions over if you prefer a more refined presentation. Also small beds of mash potato make for a great presentation and add another layer of texture.
When the octopus is cooked, remove from heat and keep covered for another good twenty minutes. The optimal cooking point is the one in which the octopus is not rubbery but not overcooked either, somewhere a middle perfect point similar to “al dente’. At that point, the octopus shrinks and its texture has become tender and magenta colored.
Now it’s ready for serving. Slice the octopus in medallions and place them over the potato slices. Then drizzle abundantly with a good olive oil, — for me, extra virgin Spanish olive oil is the best. Then sprinkle with Spanish paprika “pimentón” and place it in a big plate. Traditionally the dish is served on wooden plates, along with sliced boiled potatoes “cachelos” and bread.
It can be served as tapa or as a meal, either way a delicious dish full of nutrients. The dish is usually accompanied by young Galician Albariño white wine but any other good white wine will be fine.
At Alcala Restaurant you can find this delicious meal of the Mediterranean diet right in New York City.
Enjoy your octopus!! Que aproveche!!