Now I know what you're thinking. "When would I ever want to eat octopus, let alone tenderize it?" Octopus is a highly under-rated and under-appreciated seafood here in the States. Its diminutive cousin, calamari, is popular, so why not octopus? If properly prepared octopus is delicious, if not, then it's like you're chewing on an eraser.
We've always slowly simmered octopus for a long period until it becomes soft and tender, but I just found this unique method of tenderizing using wine corks. Apparently cork contains an enzyme that helps tenderize the octopus and reduce the cooking time. You can use the corks from red or white wine - no need to clean them. Here's how (this is based on a 2 1/2 lb octopus and you want one cork per quart of liquid):
- Heat your oven to 350 degrees F
- In a large saucepan bring 4 quarts of water to a simmer
- Brace yourself now, you need to clean your little sea critter. To do this grab a couple handfuls of coarse kosher salt and rub into the octopus as if you were applying moisturizer. (I find it helps to sing the theme song to the Little Mermaid to get you through this process. I never said they were cute, just delicious). Once it gets frothy rinse in cold water. Pound with a meat tenderizer (a few good swats in each place) and rinse again.
- Add 4 wine corks to your simmering water and lower your octopus into the pot. Once the tentacles begin to curl remove from the stove and place in your heated oven for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.
For a Spanish tapas-style dish called Pulpo a la Gallega (as in photo) we cut the octopus into about 1" pieces, place on top of 1/4" slices of boiled potato, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with smoked paprika and course sea salt.
Give octopus a chance!
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