Tuesday, 19 October 2010

On cooking an Octopus.

A friend of mine recently made an impulse purchase of octopus whilst out shopping and asked me if I knew of any good recipes. I had to admit that I had never cooked one before and this left me wondering why not? Octopus is tasty, easily available, and above all cheap, so I really couldn't understand why I’d never had a go. The reason I realised is that they're notoriously difficult to cook.  Tough rubbery octopus is never pleasant, and from all I’d heard it took a great skill and a lot of hard work to keep the beasts tender.
Then I remembered the great Harold McGee had taken on the problem and although he hadn't solved it conclusively, I thought I’d give his advice a go.
The octopus requires 3-4 hrs of cooking, but that time is easily spent sitting around watching telly.
This recipe is so simple I’ve decided to try and explain it in the style of that megalithic rock-faced arse Gordon Ramsay.
Here goes:

Octopus! - Legs remove! - Head in bin - boiling water! - Blanch legs, 30secs - Oven! 100 degrees - octopus in dry pan - 4hrs. Done!

McGee explains that an octopus’s body is made up primarily of collagen and for the end result to be tender and juicy, then that collagen needs to melt down and become gelatine. This process and the dry pan style of cooking has the added bonus that the octopus ends up sitting in a wonderful seafood sauce of it's own making.  My octopus was indeed tender, and had an incredibly strong flavour of the sea. So strong in fact that my seafood loathing girlfriend wretched when I forced her with the threat of violence to try it, and that, in my book is a result.
It hasn't yet made it to completed dish status as the strong ocean smell filled the house and annoyed the misses so I had to eat it briskly before she binned it, hence the lack of a final photo. I was however so impressed with the finished product that I’m now just waiting for her indoors to go away for a couple of days, so I can cook it again.

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