One of my favorite local restaurants is a Galician restaurant, perfect for those nights when you are craving a nice big steak. They have an open wood oven in full view where they cook meats from the region and they toast up some tasty thick slices of bread that have been rubbed with cut garlic and olive oil.
Despite the excellent meats that can be found there, though, the region is also famous for some excellent seafood dishes. My husband always wants to order their mussels cooked in a tomato sauce as a starter tapa. My favorite seafood dish of the region, though, is pulpo a la Gallega, or Galician style octopus.
Having a husband who is a fisherman, I have access to the freshest seafood. He normally doesn’t go fishing nearby land, where the octopus are found, but rather goes out a bit further in the hunt of the famous red Denia shrimp. (I’ll write more about them some other day soon). Occasionally, though, I ask him to get me an octopus, or two, so that I can make what is one of my favorite dishes.
Pulpo a la Gallega is actually very simple to make, and doesn’t use a lot of ingredients.
Octopus is a very tough meat. You don’t want to end up with a tough and rubbery final dish, though. So, there are a few methods of avoiding that.
Traditionally, you “beat” the octopus. This is done by repeatedly bashing it against a big rock. Seriously!
I personally haven’t tried that method myself.
If you don’t need to use the octopus immediately, the most common method is to freeze the octopus for a couple of days. That automatically tenderizes it.
I got my octopus fresh, though, and I wanted to use it soon. So, I decided to experiment with using a slow cooker.
- 1 large octopus
- 1 large potato (optional)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cut the head off the octopus at its base. Discard it or use it for something else, if you can find a use for it.
- Add your octopus to your slow cooker and fill with enough water to cover it.
- Cook for around the suggested cooking times of your particular slow cooker. Mine takes about 5 hours at the high position or 8 hours at low. I used the high position, but I'm guessing that you could use either, depending upon which is most convenient for you. You can check the octopus for tenderness by sticking a fork in the thickest part of the legs.
- If you are using a potato, peel it and add it to the water whole, half way through your cooking time. You can probably tell from the picture, that I don't usually bother. Neither of us really loves boiled potatoes, but they are often served with the dish.
- When you have achieved the desired tenderness, take your octopus out of the water, and place on a cutting board.
- Separate the legs, and cut the thinnest ends off from the legs. I have to admit to usually just eating them as I cut them off, but you can save them for a different plate/use. (Last time I fried them in a bit of oil, and served them on a separate plate. They got a little bit crunchy on the outside, and tasted great!)
- Thinly slice the potato, if you are using one, and lay the slices out on your serving plate.
- Thinly slice the rest of the octopus legs, and lay them over the potato slices or directly on your serving plate.
- Drizzle the octopus with a high quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Sprinkle on a little salt and a little bit of paprika. Here in Spain, they usually use a combination of a sweet and a hot paprika for pulpo a la Gallega.
For those who have frozen the octopus, and who don’t want to bother with a slow cooker, you can also just cook it over the stove. You will need to defrost the octopus, and get a big pot of boiling water ready. As soon as the water boils, hold the octopus by the base, and dip the feet into the boiling water a few times. They will curl up a little. This is done to supposedly set in the gelatin of the legs, so you can achieve the right texture.
Once that is done, you put the whole thing in the boiling water and simmer for around 45 minutes, checking for tenderness with a fork. If you want to use a potato, you add the peeled, whole potato in the same water halfway through (after around 20 minutes of cooking). Once cooked, prepare it in the same way as I did with my slow cooker method above.
I like to serve it with some cooked veggies.