Octopus vulgaris, better known as octopus, is one of the sea creatures foodies worldwide are most fond of eating. Now is the time to find out the simplest way to clean an octopus and cook it so that it’s tender and delicious.
Yet again, who better than the staff at the Pescheria da Claudio to provide some precious advice on the subject. For example, we’ve discovered the differences between frozen and fresh octopus, and that the real secret of success lies in cutting it up when it is already cooked.
How to Clean an Octopus and Cook it Tender
If you’ve purchased a fresh octopus from a market stall, you’ll probably need to clean it well, tentacle by tentacle, to remove any residue.
Remove the innards and the eyes before cleaning the inside of the head thoroughly.
Your octopus is now ready to go into the pot. If the recipe you have in mind entails cutting the octopus into pieces, it’s advisable to do so only once it is cooked.
Drop the octopus into a saucepan of unsalted boiling water or, better still, steam it. Bring to a boil, simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until tender (you'll know it is ready when you can pierce it with a fork or knife).
After cooking, let it cool for a couple of hours.
How can we distinguish between a fresh and frozen octopus? First of all, fresh octopus has a much whiter skin. Frozen octopus is more widely used because it is more tender when cooked, since freezing tenderises the flesh. Therefore, a frozen octopus is often preferable to a fresh one, which risks being tough and chewy.
Apart from tenderness, what else differentiates a thawed-out octopus from a fresh one? The flavour and aroma of a fresh octopus will obviously be more pronounced.
The most basic way to cook an octopus is to simmer it in liquid on the stove. Be careful not to overcook it though, remembering to turn the heat down to a gentle simmer once the octopus is in the pan. Cooking it for too long will result in an unpleasant rubbery texture. Other cooking options include a pressure cooker or sous-vide. It’s also possible to barbecue octopus to give the flesh a smoky hit.
A quick way of serving cooked octopus? Cut it into small pieces, combine with tomatoes and celery, and season well. If you’re looking for something more elaborate, this recipe from chef Michael Kempf offers a twist on the classic octopus chorizo combination, with the addition of artichoke hearts. Octopus lollipops with pork belly make a delicious treat coated in tandoori spices, herbs and Jamaican pepper. Last but not least, this quick and tasty recipe for an octopus and potato salad appetiser goes perfectly with a crisp white Vermentino di Sardegna.
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