Octopus, Revisited — or Harold McGee, I Love You.

I’ve written about Octopus 18 times in the past 8 years.  I think that’s some indication of its importance to me in a culinary sense.  Two years ago, I wrote that I Finally Learned How to Cook Octopus.   Within a year, I discovered Chef Jessie Schenker’s approach, and found it to be my preferred way of cooking octopi.  His method produces excellent results, but it’s complex and time-consuming, so the few times a year I actually buy and cook one, I am usually open to an alternative solution.  Especially one that’s easier and quicker.

To the rescue this week came the well-known food scientist, Harold McGee.  I have read his book, On Food and Cooking, as well as many of the articles that have been published.  He is a wealth of information, and his research is thorough and well-documented.

So when I defrosted the octopus I had in the freezer over the weekend, I was preparing to cook it Tuesday.  Recalling that I had seen and saved a copy of a blog post he wrote on Octopus, I looked it up in my Dropbox recipe files and found it quickly.  In addition to the article detailing his testing, I found a very short recipe in his conclusion.  Entitled (probably by me when I filed it) “Essence of McGee on Octopus”, here is what it said:

This was so concise, and radically different from almost everything I had read, I thought “I must try this.  If it works, Huzzah!  If not, I’ll throw it out and try again later.”

It was stunningly easy, mostly hands-off.   My only real task was checking my oven to see if the temperature was really accurate.  It wasn’t, so I adjusted to 215° F. to keep it at 200. About 3.5 hours later, it was all done!  Cooked perfectly.  Full of flavor.  No added salt.  All I needed to do was to place it (still warm from the pot) in a bowl of olive oil with some lemon juice and a little salt, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator to absorb the flavors.  After that, I get to enjoy one of my favorite foods.  It’s an unusual fast-food, in that I can take a couple of tentacles out of the oil when I want to eat, and just slice them or grill them, add some accompaniment, and I have a meal.

The photos show it in the pot after cooking, then in the olive oil bath, followed by a lunch plate of grilled octopus with chickpeas, garlic, onions, and sweet peppers (yesterday), and a small plate today of Pulpo A La Gallega (thank you, Eric Ripert) with two slices of my Tartine bread, fresh out of the oven.

All I can say is, “Huzzah!!

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1 Response to Octopus, Revisited — or Harold McGee, I Love You.

  1. Pingback: The Octopus Chronicles — Version 5.0 | Dgourmac's Blog

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