I like the unexpected. Especially when it is something new to me, or it tastes and sounds exotic but in reality it has a longstanding history—a marriage of flavors that is natural. Flavors tried and tested over time, in this case, in towns all across Portugal.
Octopus is a food that falls into a category that not to many foods do—it is either flash cooked very quickly or it is stewed for a very long time. Both methods intended to render the octopus meltingly tender. I have tried flash cooking octopus several times and either I am an idiot and just can’t get it right or my definition of tender is radically different from everyone else who uses the flash cooked method.
For me, I used slow cook them. It takes about an hour for a 2 pound octopus, give or take 15 minutes. There is nothing at all wrong with this method. It takes time but it renders a perfectly tender octopus but ever since I wrote my pressure cooking book, An Idiot’s Guide to Pressure Cooking I invariably started cooking lots of things under pressure, octopus being one of the many. The pressure cooker turns out the most tender octopus in a lightning fast 10 minutes. You can also cook the potatoes just as quick and quicker depending on their size. I have thought about combining the two and cooking them both at once but I am not convinced I want my potatoes to taste like octopus. I want to keep the flavors separate, let the potatoes have an equal roll.
The tomato vinaigrette is bold with roasted garlic and sweet with sun dried tomatoes. The acidity brings out the best in the octopus and the potatoes. Once the garlic is roasted it comes together easily in the food processor.
Note: if you are using traditional cooking methods place the octopus in a large pot with the bay leaf and lemon. Add water to cover, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the octopus 2 hours or until tender.
Octopus and Potato Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette (serves 4)
1 octopus, about two pounds
1 bay leaf
6 Yukon gold potatoes, medium sized and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 roma tomato, halved
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 garlic head, roasted until gooey and soft
3 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
flat leaf parsley, minced
- Place the octopus into a 6 quart (5.51l) pressure cooker along with the bay leaf and lemon.
- Add enough water that the octopus floats. Place the cooker over high heat and bring to a boil. Lock the lid into place and bring the pressure level to high. Once the pressure is reached reduce the heat to low and set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Once the timer has sounded remove the pot from the heat and perform a cold water release. Carefully open the cooker, insert a knife into the octopus and if it slips through easily it is done. If not place it back onto the heat, put on the lid and bring it to pressure. Cook another 5 minutes. Remove the octopus to an ice water bath to cool it quickly.
- Rinse out the cooker. Add 2 cups of water and place the potatoes into a steamer basket. Bring the water to a hard boil, add the steamer basket, lock on the lid and bring the pressure to high. Once pressure is reached, reduce the heat to low, and set a timer for 4 minutes.
- Once the time sounds perform a cold water release. Remove the potatoes and let them steam dry.
- Place the tomato, sun dried tomatoes, vinegar, three cloves of roasted garlic, olive oil, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper into a blender. Blend until the dressing is airy and creamy. It will deflate so don’t worry.
- Slice the octopus tentacles into 1-inch pieces. Add them to a bowl along with the potatoes. Season them with salt and pepper and toss gently. Add half the dressing and toss again.
- Plate up the salad onto a platter. Drizzle on the remaining dressing and top with minced parsley.