Pulpo a la Gallega: Octopus cooked in the Galician way, with some personal twists
El loco del pueblo
I will always remember my first experience of pulpo a la gallega in Cabo Finisterre, Galicia, "some" decades ago. We were a dozen of friends, cruising together on three sailing boats from France to Galicia. As I have experienced it at many occasions, sailing is a great way to meet with unexpected people and to live "authentic" experiences. Our first stop after 2 or 3 full days and nights of sailing was the small fishing harbor of Cabo Finisterre at the extreme North-Western end of Spain. As soon as we arrived there and just took our mooring, our welcome committee stepped on board. This committee had only one member, a fisherman known as the loco del pueblo (the "village's fool") and the nicest guy on earth. As a welcome gift, he offered us an octopus that he had just fished. Of course, as we didn't know how to prepare it, and as this guy, again, was such a nice person, he prepared it for us. He took a big boiling water pot and plunge the octopus into it. Once doing it, he explained to us that you have to plunge it seven times in the boiling water, because this was the number of times the Joshua's Israelite army marched around the city of Jericho blowing their trumpets before the walls collapsed... So seven times, in the boiling water and, the truth obliged me to say so, in case the trumpets would be unefficient, he also hammered the octopus to tenderize it before cooking it in the Galician way (with steamed potatoes, olive oil and paprika).
To enjoy with a glass of Albariño, the local white wine, or, since we are talking about authenticity, not served in a glass, but in a small bowl as it is the way Albariño is served in the "bodegas" in Galicia. As far as we were concerned, we didn't have Albariño yet, but we had some bottles of Muscadet with us and we shared with our new friend. I guess, we also gave him 1 or 2 bottles to bring back home. This was my first "pulpo a la gallega" and the best I have ever had, although I had it frequently during my numerous trips in Madrid or Barcelona. I also cook it regularly, trying to follow the principles (7 times) of our friend there...
Here is a recipe of this pulpo a la gallega, with a few personal variations, inspirational or simply imposed by the lack of some ingredients.
Ingredients (2 servings)
For the court-bouillon:
- Bay leaves, thyme, rosemary (or any other herbs)
- 1/2 onion
- A few garlic cloves, just crushed
- 1 tbsp. of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 lemon
- Salt, piment d'Espelette
- 1/4 gallon of water (to adjust)
For the dish itself:
- Around 1.5 lb. of octopus tentacles (previously frozen)
- 10 fingerling potatoes
- 10 mini bell peppers (yellow, orange and red)
- 1/2 glass of olive oil
- 1 tsp./tbsp. of harissa (depending if you like it hot or not)
- Paprika (or better, smoked paprika ou pimenton)
- Piment d'Espelette (or few hot chili peppers)
- Cilantro, parsley...
- Make a court-bouillon with all the ingredients, bring to boil, and let infuse, lid on, for 1 hour
- Bring back the court-bouillon to boil, and plunge the octopus into it (I plunged it 7 times, more by superstition than by any rationale: the octopus was previously frozen, which mechanically contributes to tenderize it)
- Keep the octopus in the gently bubbling court-bouillon, lid on, for around 1 hour or till it is tender (test with a knife)
- Make a marinade with crushed garlic, harissa, paprika, piment d' Espelette, adjusting the quantity at your taste (more or less spicy)
- When the octopus is cooked, remove it from the court-bouillon (keep the court-bouillon), strain the octopus and cut it in big chunks
- Put those chunks in the marinade and stir them up, and let rest the whole for 1 hour in the fridge
- Put the potatoes in a strainer or a pressure cooker basket on top of the court-bouillon, and steam them like that till cooked
- Sear the mini bell peppers in olive oil, garlic and piment d'Espelette, till grilled on each side, and mix the whole in a blender, adding olive oil if need be, till obtaining some kind of a puree
- Strain this puree, separating the sauce (adjust the seasoning and reserve it) and the pulp
- Spread the pulp on a parchment paper and on a plaque in a 400 F oven for around 1/2 hour
- Take the octopus out of the fridge and pour it with its marinade in a medium/high hot pan, cook it for around 5 minutes, stirring up regularly to avoid grilling the octopus
- If need be, adjust the seasoning (salt, paprika and piment)
- Serve the octopus chunks with the potatoes, surround those with the warmed up bell pepper sauce, spread some of the bell pepper grilled pulp, some chopped olives, some cilantro/parsley on top
- Deglaze the pan with 2 tbsp. of dry white wine (Albariño) and pour the sauce on the octopus and potatoes
"Welcome back to Cabo Finisterre," said el loco del pueblo!