Friday, July 24, 2015

Cooking Octopus with San Sebastian Food

YouTube Link: Cooking Octopus with San Sebastian Food
More Videos: Helen's Kitchen Channel

This video couldn't have happened without Jon Warren, the founder of San Sebastian Food, Chef Bendur Elizondo, our octopus cooking expert, and Jason Rennie (my husband) who was behind the camera.  Thank you!!!

Here are a few more tips from Bendur and notes from Helen.

Although we were working with a frozen octopus, it was in pristine condition -- not a whiff of smell. Unfortunately, that rarely happens to me in Boston.

Put your frozen octopus on a tray (it will release a lot of water) and put in the fridge for 2 days.  Don't defrost in warm water.

This was the biggest revelation to me.  I usually cook octopus way too long.  This results in a very soft octopus, but one that sheds all its skin.  Octopus is done when the texture inside is even (like testing a potato for doneness).  But no, it shouldn't be as soft as potato.

I am sure you want an explanation for what's in the pot, especially the copper coins and the cork.

The cooking liquid for 5-9 Lb octopus:
  • Water -- Bendur suggested a very large pot and a lot of water.  We didn't measure it, but I am guessing it was at least 15 Liters (about 4 gallons).
  • 1 bayleaf and 1/2 of a peeled onion -- these are for flavor
  • No Salt -- octopus and many denizens of the ocean tend to have a high level of sodium.  If salt is added to cooking liquid, it ends up being too salty.  This is something I tested myself in my octopus cooking experiments and I agree.
  • 1 cup of red wine -- Bendur said that red wine tenderizes the octopus.  
  • Cork from a bottle of red wine -- many cooks is Spain and Italy add the cork.  Harold McGee says it doesn't do anything.  I'd like to test that for myself.
  • Copper coins (make sure to clean them first) -- Bendur said that the Galicia octopus was traditionally cooked in copper pots.  Now that we don't have copper pots, we add a few copper coins.  That's another theory I'd like to test.


Anonymous said...

Wow! That was a huge octupus. Very interesting to see how it is prepared. Thanks for the video. Did you get to eat it afterwards? If so, how did it taste?

Helen said...

Oh yes, I got to eat it and it was lovely. Tender with a mild ocean flavor. I love octopus and ate it almost every day while I was in Spain. It's very hard to get octopus like that in the US.

Anonymous said...

Now I know what to order when in Spain. :-)

Unknown said...

Hi there. Just saw the video on youtube while looking for the sous vide for octopus. I do spearfishing and i catch a lot of octopus. A litle correction, octopus does have an hiperosmotic flesh but is not salty. The thing is that fisherman take advantage of its hiperosmotic flesh and soak it into fresh water for about 4 hours and it captures water increasing up to 16% of its weight. Another thing they do is to add conservant, mainly citric acid and sodium phosphate and that's the reason for the saulty flavour. So when you boil it you end up loosing 40% of its weight (normal) + the 16% that fisherman added. With mine i freeze it and then i cook it with an onion and water and salt, for an average of 40 minutes, then i start to check its consistency. The main advise i give you is to have a mid temperature, so that the water is boiling really gently otherwise it will become chewy and the flesh will fall apart.
Check this study in order to understand the salty flavour