Bring a taste of Spain to your kitchen with Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus). —INGRAIN, Spring 2019 Issue
Here’s how the briny, smoky tapas dish called pulpo a la gallega from Spain's northwestern region of Galicia usually goes down: Gently simmer fresh octopus in a pot of water that’s as salty as the sea, rub those guys with olive oil and (good) Spanish paprika, and throw them on the grill for a few minutes until charred. Bathe the charred octopus in olive oil, cut up plenty of lemons, and pull out big hunks of crusty bread to go for a deep dive. Deliciously simple, if you have access to just-caught octopus.
If not, pile on the spring herbs (dill, parsley, green onions, fennel) and nestle the octopus in a pot to slowly braise, and you’ll be on your way to a beachside lunch in Catalonia. Use this recipe as a base for the lentil salad or panzanella, or serve the octopus straight up alongside the herb-rich stock that magically appears.
Pairing A Belgian-style pale ale like Matilda (Goose Island).
Serves 6 as a main; 12 as tapas
4 pounds fresh octopus (4 to 6 medium), cleaned
Freshly ground pepper
Aromatics: dill + parsley + fennel fronds + green onions + celery + leeks and/or garlic cloves (two to three handfuls)
To serve: lemon slices + olive oil + plenty of crusty bread
Enough water to a boil in a large pot to cover 4 pounds fresh octopus (4 to 6 medium), cleaned. Add octopus, blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, and drain. When cool, slice halfway through octopus heads so each lie somewhat flat. Sprinkle octopus with sea salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste.
Olive oil generously to cover the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Arrange a mix of aromatics on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Dill + parsley (including stems) + fennel fronds + green onions + celery + leeks (sliced in half lengthwise) + garlic cloves are all good options.
Octopus on top of aromatics, cover, and cook over low heat for 2 hours. Flip octopus once or twice as it cooks; it should be tender enough to break off the end of a tentacle. If not, cook another 30 minutes (especially if you have bigger guys). Let octopus cool, and strain cooking liquid (reserve the broth). Grill immediately or refrigerate octopus for up to 24 hours.
Grill for indirect cooking over high heat. Pat octopus dry, rub all over with olive oil, and sprinkle octopus with salt + pepper to taste. Grill octopus for a few minutes on both sides until lightly charred. Or sear octopus in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. (Place a heavy pan on top of octopus so each lies flat in the pan.)
Octopus into bite-size pieces. Serve with lemon slices, olive oil, and plenty of crusty bread.