10 Sep2013

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Eureka! You cannot imagine how happy I was that I finally got some tender octopus as a result of a very, very simple way of braising the beast(s). Over the past two years or so, I have tried say 6 different methods for tenderizing and cooking octopus, with very mixed, often disappointing results. Cook it fresh, cook it after hanging it outdoors in the sea air, after freezing it. Beat it silly with a hammer, a meat tenderizer, a bottle. Braise it in wine, tomatoes, etc. Boil it in cold water to start, drop it into hot water, boil it then braise it. Add corks to the brew (a Mario Batali tweak)… and yet never have I been truly totally happy with the results. I had nearly thrown in the towel, of course blaming the darned local octopus rather than my paltry octopi cooking skills, but I really wanted to replicate a salad I have eaten several times at an Italian restaurant in a local gast station (another story), so I tried just one more time…

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The cooking basic method I got from an internet post on octopus salad, here. But I augmented it with several other steps which hopefully helped with the end result. First, buy live octopus from your nearest seaside market, I got several at the Nasugbu market a few weeks ago. Second, FREEZE the octopods. I read somewhere freezing helps break down some of the inherent toughness. Next defrost the octopus and beat it firmly with a meat tenderizer — hard enough to feel the flesh yield, but not so hard as to break skin. Next, place the octopus in a Le Creuset or Staub dutch oven and put it over a medium low flame. Do not pre-heat the pot. Add a cork or two for good measure (not sure I buy the Batali thing, but it couldn’t hurt), I used a wine cork and a champagne cork. Once the octopus has reached a boil (and lots of its own liquid fills the bottom of the pot), lower the heat and cover the pot and let it simmer for say 40-50 minutes until tender when poked with a fork. Turn off the heat, let the octopus cool in its braising liquid. Now you have pretty darned good and quite tender octopus for salads, to grill briefly if desired, to add to other dishes.

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Why put up with all this octopi experimentation? Because octopus can be quite plentiful and VERY economical in local markets. They taste great when done right. And they have a unique texture and flavor. So I persevered. And next up, see a couple of different salads I made with this braised octopus… :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Anne :-) says:

    Is there any chemistry as to what role does the cork plays on tenderizing the octopi meat?

    Sep 10, 2013 | 8:17 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    Anne, there are supposed to be some enzymes in the cork that help to tenderize… But I am not sure if it is just the cork or the cork with some wine in it that does the trick…

    Sep 10, 2013 | 8:25 pm

     
  3. May says:

    I must be going to the wrong markets! At which markets are octopi plentiful? Thanks! My Japanese friend’s extreme method of tenderizing octopus involves putting the thing inside the dryer!

    Sep 10, 2013 | 8:57 pm

     
  4. millet says:

    yey! finally i will muster the courage to try cooking octopus. i’ve been afraid because of the toughness issue. thanks once again, MM!

    Sep 10, 2013 | 9:42 pm

     
  5. Khew says:

    http://www.ultimate-guide-to-greek-food.com/tenderise-octopus.html

    You may also want to experiment with:
    – roughly chopped up papaya leaves as a ‘marinade’
    – yellowish jackfruit leaves instead of the corks

    Sep 10, 2013 | 10:55 pm

     
  6. Titanons says:

    Will this work also if u don’t use a Le Creuset or Staub dutch oven?

    Sep 10, 2013 | 11:03 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    Titanons, any heavy bottomed pot, preferably cast iron and or enameled, but I suspect it’ll work in other pots too… the key is keeping the flame relatively low and not a very active boil… May, at seaside markets like Nasugbu Batangas you OFTEN find octopus at say just pHP80+ a kilo or so. In Manila, you can get it at seaside market, Farmer’s market and in Chinatown markets as well…

    Sep 11, 2013 | 6:47 am

     
  8. ka_fredo says:

    Can’t wait to try this. I see a few small sized octopus in the Las Pinas public market from time to time. I knew it wasn’t easy to tenderize so I didn’t buy any. I was afraid it would just go to waste. I’ll try make some Kinilaw na pugita :D

    Sep 11, 2013 | 7:37 am

     
  9. Papa Ethan says:

    May I humbly contribute this simple method for preparing octopus: bring a pot of heavily salted water to a very aggressive boil; put in the cleaned octopus (no more beak and organs) and boil for five minutes; cover the pot and turn off the heat; keep the octopus in the liquid until the pot is cool to the touch; fish the tenderized octopus out of the pot and drain. The octopus may now be eaten as is, or cooked further. I learned this technique from a boatman’s family in Palawan many years ago.

    Try slicing them into small bite-sized pieces and fry these quickly in pork lard, to yield yummy morsels that are crisp on the outside and tender in the inside!

    =)

    Sep 11, 2013 | 9:02 am

     
  10. Marketman says:

    Papa Ethan, that sounds easy AND brilliant. Will have to try that the next time around… Thanks! :)

    Sep 11, 2013 | 10:05 am

     
  11. ami says:

    I was watching Island Feast with Peter Kuruvita a couple of weeks ago and the technique he showed the viewers was to just throw the octopus into a heavy pot, place over low heat, cover and leave it. Eventually the juices of the octopus will come out and it would cook in it’s own juices.

    Sep 11, 2013 | 10:07 am

     
  12. Gio says:

    MM, can’t wait to try this! What braising liquid did you use?

    Sep 11, 2013 | 10:31 am

     
  13. jesse says:

    Here’s an interesting feature on cephalopods.

    http://www.sciencefriday.com/video/08/05/2011/where-s-the-octopus.html

    Sep 11, 2013 | 10:36 am

     
  14. Marketman says:

    Gio, no added braising liquid, that’s the point… It’s just natural octopus juices… :)

    Sep 11, 2013 | 11:47 am

     
  15. Toping says:

    I’m surprised you haven’t tried massaging the octopus, the way they did in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” :-)

    Sep 11, 2013 | 12:21 pm

     
  16. Marketman says:

    Toping, I liked that movie… Yes, it was a bit more brutal, my treatment of the octopus… :) Jesse, VERY COOL video link, that’s for providing that.

    Sep 11, 2013 | 12:47 pm

     
  17. onix says:

    what about running over it with your car back and forth then drop it into a slow cooker.. that will do the job haha

    Sep 11, 2013 | 3:34 pm

     
  18. Anna Banana says:

    Yum! tako! Will there be takoyaki experiments, Mr. MM sir? I really hope so! :-)

    Sep 12, 2013 | 4:10 am

     
  19. alicia says:

    Oh wow. Thanks so much for this. I have been wanting to use octopus in many dishes and this will help. HAve you tried the octopus and bone marrow pasta at Marea in NYC? ITs delicious. Maybe you could recreate and share with us how to do it!

    Sep 12, 2013 | 8:58 am

     
  20. corrine says:

    I really like the Korean way …octopus in chili sauce. You think I should tenderize it first as you did and then stir fry in chili sauce?

    If water is heavily salted, wouldn’t that make the octopus too salty?

    Sep 14, 2013 | 2:16 pm

     
  21. joey @ 80 breakfasts says:

    Thanks for sharing this MM! One of my favorite Spanish tapas involves octopus but like most I am always nervous about cooking it at home…thanks or the how-to!

    Sep 14, 2013 | 4:33 pm

     
  22. Papa Ethan says:

    corrine: i’m not sure about the science behind it, but the heavily salted boiling water somehow tenderizes the octopus without making it salty, maybe because you only keep it boiling for five minutes and then turn off the heat. I’ve done this many times in the past and the results are always okay.

    Sep 15, 2013 | 8:25 pm

     
  23. Jenna says:

    Hello, longtime lurker…

    I simply let the octopus braise in its own juices (no added liquid; sitting on top of some slices of onion and/or other seasoning, sometimes but not always) in a covered pot at a very low temperature in the oven, say 200F. It takes several hours, but it has worked every time. No acid, no beatings, no cork! I got the idea from here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/dining/05curious.html?_r=0 … but I do not bother to blanch the octopus.

    Mind you, I’m always working from a frozen octopus (which I thaw before putting in the oven), so that may be doing a bit of the work.

    Sep 17, 2013 | 12:26 am

     
  24. Jim says:

    I heard that the way to cook octopus so that its tender is either to cook it really quickly or for a long long time. Anywhere in the middle and its chewy. The 5 minute method above seems to bear this out. Will try it next time I see octopi in the supermarket …

    Sep 19, 2013 | 11:46 am

     

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