To the point, this is one of my favourite things to eat and cook, either in a stew, soup, salad, or grilled, octopus is a very versatile product. As a guy born and raised in the coast, I learnt to eat seafood since I was a wee boy, my mum doesn´t want to tell me the first time I ate octopus, (I´ve told her several times that I´m too old to be taken away from her by social services anyway, but she doesn´t get it), that, along with crabs, ceviche, shrimps, and fish are part of our regular diet.
Anyway, every time I cook octopus my mates ask me how do I know it´s ready to eat. Well, let me tell you how I cook this amazing seafood, while I attempt to post a video of myself putting an octopus into boiling water. (FAIL, I couldn´t upload the video, so, there, have a pic of Mexicans celebrating the CINCO DE MAYO).
First, go to your fish market, ready? Good. If you don´t have a fish market, well, so sorry, go to your local supermarket and go to the fish section, I´d rather buy it frozen if you don´t live close to the coast or in the middle of Saskatchewan. If you are buying it fresh, the octopus must have a bright and shiny skin, firm texture from the head to the tip of the tentacles. Now, don´t be shy, grab the octopus, take it closer to your nose and smell it, the scent should be something between salt, the ocean and fishy (and your unfulfilled dreams from high school of becoming a pro soccer player). Have you picked your octopus? Sweet, now ask the lad behind the counter to clean it for you (pretty much taking out the insides and the wee beak it has).
Now go to the kitchen, that´s right, take that eight legged bastard to your crib and get things started. Use a medium size pot and pour 2 litres of water, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 quarter of an onion. Put it to boil, now wait patiently until you see the water boiling. Now, as seen in the video, little by little, like if you are testing the water for the octopus, put it inside, this will let the tentacles to take the heat and don´t roll up too much, because this will happen if you place it straight into the pot.
I once learnt that in order to know how long it takes to cook an octopus, you ought to leave it in boiling water with a potato the same size of the head of the octopus, true story. I´ve tried this several times and turns out that when the potato was ready, the Octopus still needed 20 to 30 more minutes. My standard is an octopus of 500 gr (usually the standard size in Mexico), leave it for 1 to 1.5 hours. Honestly, wait one hour, cut one of the tentacles off and try it. You are looking for a soft, easy to chew texture, slimy outside and well defined inside meat.
When ready, as an easy recipe, cut it into cubes, and stir fry with onions, garlic, paprika, chilies and deglaze with some soy sauce. Serve with some cous-cous or white rice and pair with a Pinot Gris or a nice Rosé.