One of the dishes I enjoy eating is pulpo a la Gallego, or Galician-style octopus, a staple in Spanish restaurants anywhere, but I never dared to try to make it on my own. Maybe it was the intimidation factor, the thought of eight tentacles with multiple suckers each, triggering some latent trypophobia (fear of holes, and yes, it's a real thing). There it was though, impenetrable yet familiar, something to conquer and carve to satisfy a craving.
Some micro greens would be nice for the edible garden; the few sprigs of flathead parsley in the chiller will have to do. Paprika is important to somehow still connect the dish with its Spanish roots, but as with the dishes I cook or prepare, I like to add my own version of traditional recipes to make it personal. If you don't have a copper pot, you can use a clean coin to drop in when boiling the octopus. The great chef Jose Andres recommends this as the metal interacts with the octopus skin and enhances its reddish-purplish hue.
I call this dish the Octopus Garden, minus the apostrophe and extra s, after The Beatles' song. It was said that Ringo Starr wrote the song from a desire to escape and go under the sea. While we stay indoors, we can escape into our own worlds, perhaps to an underwater garden, stretch out our "tentacles" and keep afloat.
Cooking time: 35 minutes
1 whole octopus (I recommend Wild Caught's Yude Tako, as it's already pre-boiled.)
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
Paprika, for garnish
1 lemon slice
2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
6 litres of water
1. In a large pot, bring 6 litres of water to a boil. Add salt, peppercorns and bay leaf. Holding the octopus by the head, carefully and quickly dip the tentacles into the water 3 times, then lower it into the pot. Dipping it in hot water before searing will firm up the octopus and hold its shape.
Hold the octopus by the head and gently lower it to the boiling pot. For cooked octopus, thaw this under running water, then dip in boiling pot, for maximum 5 minutes. For uncooked octopus, clean this accordingly, do the same procedure, but allow to boil for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes into the boiling pot. Remove octopus after 5 minutes and transfer to a work surface; discard the braising liquid. Separate the tentacles and cut the head in chunks. Wipe remaining water with a paper towel. Let potatoes continue to boil for about 25 minutes.
Don't worry about perfect cuts. Chop off the tentacles first, then cut the head into chunks.
3. Preheat grill pan. Drizzle octopus pieces with olive oil. Grill over medium-high heat, turning, until lightly charred, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Turn off heat for pot. Drain braising liquid and transfer potatoes to a serving platter. Arrange the chopped octopus on the platter with the potatoes. Drizzle with lemon juice and a bit more olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika, flaky sea salt or fine salt, and parsley leaves. Serve.