Octopus! How intimidating! The only cooking methods I gathered so far sound more like danger warnings than cooking instructions. Some say you must cook the octopus for exactly 60 minutes, no more, no less, or the whole thing turns to rubber. A strange thing called a “beak” must be removed somehow and in one travel/cooking show I learnt that some Greeks catch fresh octopus straight from the sea and then “tenderize” the meat by whacking the still alive cephalopod over hard rocks exactly 30 times. What am I to do with this information and how can I tackle this in my little kitchen?
Easy! I bought a small frozen octopus at the market and let it thaw. Turn the octopus upside down and squeeze the “mouth” (the white circular centre between the legs) as you would a ripe pimple until the hard black beak pops out, discard.
Next, place the octopus in a bag and tenderize the meat with a rolling pin, don’t pound it into a pulp, simply massage it for a few minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil then gently lower the tentacles into the pot, they should start to curl as you submerge them. Don’t do this step too fast or the meat might seize up, dip the octopus in small little dunks as you would with your toes in a hot bath. Lower the heat to a strong simmer rather than full on bubbling.
Cooking time: use your eyes. Big octopus = 60 to 90 minutes, medium octopus= 30 to 60 minutes, small octopus= 30 minutes or less. My tiny friend was ready in just over 15 minutes! What you want to look for is nice tender meat, a change in opacity and colour and you might also notice that the skin has slightly burst open in areas just like what happens to hot dogs when they are done.
This is the octopus after boiling. Now you can prepare it in any way you like.
Clockwise: salted octopus grilled under the broiler, chilled thinly sliced octopus marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and wasabi (garnished with nori strips and the marinade which I froze), teriyaki shark filets and salt and pepper shark filets.