Foodstuff: Octopus

Octopus 1

Until recently, I had yet to see octopus in any stores locally. Even in the south, I generally encounter them frozen and, so, when I saw a fresh whole octopus here in my local supermarket I snapped up, despite the price tag of $50 for a 2kg specimen…

Actually, the price I paid is not that bad given that I will get several dishes from this single purchase… before getting to that point, though, the octopus needs a little preparation …

Octopus 2

An octopus, as any animal, needs to be cleaned, or eviscerated. In this case, though, the viscera is in a pouch that roughly corresponds to what we think of as the ‘head’, with the eyes being located on either side of the ‘neck’. The octopus I bought was, luckily, already cleaned. Here, you can see where the incision was made, with one of the eyes just beneath it.

 

Octopus 3

Here, I have cut across the neck at the base to reveal the inside of the mouth opening (you can see the external opening in the first picture at the center of the tentacles). Inside the orifice, the octopus has a hard structure very like a parrot’s beak which must be removed. It pops out quite easily and, here, you can see the two halves of the structure.

 

Octopus 4

The preliminary step in preparing an octopus is blanching. Effectively, the octopus is dropped into boiling water and then the water is allowed to come to a boil again for a period dependent on the size of the octopus. A baby one, just a few inches long, will require only a minute or so, while one of the current size needs a good 8 to ten minutes. After blanching, the octopus is then dropped into cold water to stop the cooking. In the above picture, you can see the tentacles just after they were dropped into the boiling water (which has stopped boiling for the moment). The head and neck portion were added halfway through the blanching time of 10 minutes. The half a lemon you see is not an uncommon addition and is supposed to keep the flavor fresher. I don’t know how true this really is but I had one on hand and added it anyway …

At this point, the flesh can be sliced for sashimi, sushi, or into pieces for various salad type preparations. Generally, though, most recipes involve further cooking, including boiling, stewing, braising, grilling, or even steaming.

 

Octopus 5

Here you can see the tentacle bunch after blanching. The tips of the tentacles have curled prettily and the outer skin has darkened considerably. I didn’t photograph it, but the blanching water turns a dark purple too…

 

Octopus 6

Cutting up the bunch is as easy as making a single cut from the mouth opening to the juncture between each tentacle. I will be saving the tips of seven tentacles, one whole tentacle, and the head and neck parts for immediate use. The rest is to be frozen.

 

Octopus 7

Here is a little of one tentacle cut into slices for a little sashimi snack along with a bit of wasabi. You could also supply soy sauce but I just squeezed a little lemon juice n to the slices before the wasabi and the result was delicious.

Stay tuned … more octopus recipes to follow…

 

 

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