Another change of plans. Muffins were on the list last night. Why? Because I love baking and my blogger friend Phuong from My Kitchen of Love added this great post on savory muffins which I found inspiring. I have never baked muffins in my life so I figured these would be a great first but the weather is still incredibly hot in Los Angeles, nearing 80F even at night. Just firing the stove raises the temperature enough to put my stubbornness to test. I broke. I will get back to these awesome savory muffins! They shall be baked in a few months!
Let’s talk about Pulpo a la Gallega. This is one of those dishes that although surprisingly simple, just 4 ingredients, can blow your mind. This galician dish is extremely popular everywhere in Spain, and I’ve had it there almost every time I’ve gone to visit. Its popularity has found its way to other countries, and reached this town of LA. I’ve spotted it at a really nice spanish tapas place in Santa Monica, the name: Bar Pntixo. I love that place. The staff is amazing and the food is really delicious and authentic.
It’s been said that an octopus has the IQ of a 3 year old child or at least I remember reading that somewhere. As impressive as it might sound, it doesn’t really matter to me, this octopus I bought could have had the IQ of Einstein, I’d still eat it ferociously. Octopus is delicious when prepared well and simply. Sushi quality octopus is a treat, raw, thinly sliced with some ginger and soy sauce, amazing stuff, but you get the idea how difficult it would be to eat a thicker cut. The muscles that comprise the octopus tentacles are firm, they need to be cooked for a long time to break them down. Luckily, I have my precious pressure cooker. The right tool for the right job. But don’t get discouraged. This dish can be prepared without one, it will just take 2-3 times as long to get the octopus to the right tenderness level. Let’s go over my version of this dish:
Ingredients (serves 2):
about 400g fresh octopus legs (if you can find a whole specimen, call me)
4-5 small waxy creamer potatoes, fingerling would work nicely
1 tbs pimenton de la vera (sweet smoked paprika)
EVOO + Vinagre de Jerez: Pedro Ximenez (equal parts for a vinaigrette)
Maldon or Kosher Salt to taste
Lime (thinly sliced wedges)
Aioli: see recipe here!
Hong Vit radishes micro-greens for garnishing
Notice how I also have the ingredients for aioli in the above photograph. But I have a separate post for it. We’ll focus on the Pulpo here.
To cook this wonderful octopus I tried something slightly different from previous times. Steam the tentacles in the pressure cooker. By doing so, the flavor loss is minimized this way, something that will happen if the octopus is boiled which most recipes indicate. Fill about an inch of the cooker vessel with water. I then placed my veggie steamer opened at the bottom right over the water and place a second heat safe container over it, that’s where the octopus goes. The point is to keep it away form the water and be able to retain the liquids that will be released (which makes a wonderful octopus stock btw, reduce, salt, lemon, etc, you get the idea). On high heat, seal the pressure cooker, lock the safety and set to 15psi. Once the pressure valve pops, lower the heat to low. The temperature inside will remain stable as long as the valve remains up. If it drops, you need to crank up the heat a bit. Don’t let the pressure cooker release high pressure steam while cooking, this isn’t necessary and will probably end up damaging it. It is a rather quiet cooking method when done correctly. Cook for 1 hour.
In the mean time, prepare all your garnishes, and have them ready. Remember, this dish is extremely simple. Steamed potatoes, sweet smoked paprika, olive oil and salt is the required elements to create this traditional classic. I’ve added a few more element because I believe they complement the dish. I like how the acidity of some lime and the sherry vinegar really enhance the texture and adds sharpness. The aioli goes extremely well with the potatoes and the octopus as well. That hint of garlic is magical… did I just say that? I guess I did.
For the potatoes, it couldn’t get simpler. Slice the potatoes in 1/2 cm thick rounds… about 1/8 of an inch? I have no clue. Just thick enough so that they can hold their shape when lifted by hand. I’m using them as the vehicle for the octopus, it’s unnecessary, but I like how it looks, and makes for a fun dish to eat. Add them to a pot of water, at some salt, a pinch or two, enough to make the water nicely salty. Turn on the stove on medium high heat. The water will eventually boil. The potatoes will be cooked evenly this way. After a few minutes, check for tenderness. These should cook quickly. 5-7 mins. When done, strain most of the water, add cold tap water, to stop the cooking and still keep them in warm water. This will prevent them from drying and keep the potatoes warm until you’re ready to plate.
After 1 hour. Turn off the heat. And open the pressure release valve. Be careful, tons of very hot steam will be released, make sure you are working the valve from atop . This is the not so quiet portion of this cooking method. I would usually take the pressure cooker in the sink and run cold water over it, in a minute or less, the pressure will drop and the cooker will be safe to open, but since I have another container inside of it, I want to make sure I don’t spill the contents that will most likely land on the veggie steamer or find their way into the water below ruining everything. Let’s not ruin everything. That’s bad. Remove the octopus from the cooker. And let it rest for a few minutes. It will be 2 hot to handle otherwise and it is always good to let protein rest a bit before slicing. It will relax and be more tender after a few minutes. Slice the tentacles in rounds about 1/2 inch tall. Reserve.
For plating, simply sprinkle some paprika on a plate. Add a few drops of the vinaigrette on the plate. Place the potato rounds (which you should strain, make no water goes on your plate) over the vinaigrette (this will prevent the potatoes from sticking to the plate and season their underside) . Place the octopus rounds over the potatoes. Drizzle some vinaigrette over them. Add salt to taste, and sprinkle some more paprika on them. Finish with some aioli small dollops. Add the micro greens or some chopped parsley would work nicely as well. Serve immediately. I have had this dish cold as well. It is delicious both ways. And there you have it. Pulpo a la Gallega. Doesn’t get any better than this.
Until the next post. I hope you have enjoyed this one. Take care and thank you for visiting!