How to Cook an Octopus
We arrived at Cuatro Casas in Baja California by way of Robert’s Lefts on a dirt road that tested the Beast’s boundaries. Even with the dirt road, it was nice to get away from the howling off shore winds we had found that morning in Erindira. As we set up our camp in the late afternoon we realized that the waves were absolutely pumping! Super slopey rights wrapping around the point and going for hundreds of meters. We threw our wetsuits on, had an amazing session and spent the rest of the evening just giggling.
Sunrise view the next morning was stunning — pink, orange and blue sky set against gentle lines of WNW waves still wrapping through the blue green Pacific. It is January, so we had been lucky the evening before to score a little bit of south swell. The direction had changed this morning but we felt sure it would get better in just about an hour or so. So we made coffee, we stretched, we took a bike ride and did numerous other things to pass time until the waves looked as good as the evening before.
However, the tide kept getting lower and lower at this high tide point break. We decided to try our hand at foraging around the tide pools for clams, seaweed and whatever else we could find. We soon remembered how little we knew about ocean foraging so when we saw other folks doing the same thing, we decided to inquire. It was a local Mexican family and they were hunting pulpo, or octopus, by blowing through long thin rubber tubes to scare them out from under rocks. We witnessed the 13 year old daughter pull a small pulpo out of the water! It wrapped its tentacles around her arm as she pulled rounded ocean rocks from its grasp and prepared to throw it a bucket with the other bounty. Apparently the tentacles sting when they touch her arm but the girl didn’t seem to show it. Armando and his family hunt pulpo to sell to local restaurants at about 50 pesos per Kilo. They also showed us an edible variety of seaweed that grows in abundance in these waters. We figured that that we could not pass up this opportunity for fresh seafood and decided to buy a kilo. A kilo turns out to be small octopus. We bought 1/3 Kilo instead.
And then the surf was up! We got pummeled with shifty lefts, had a few good rides, caught some sun and walked back to the camp site to rest up before a sunset session. During this rest, I cooked the octopus. Here’s how I did it:
1. Add enough water to a pot to cover your octopus.
2. Add your aromatics, in this case I used:
- Half red onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- orange peel
3. Bring water and aromatics to a boil, let simmer for about 10 minutes or until the octopus is ready and you feel that the flavors are infused.
4. Meanwhile, prep your octopus by separating the tentacles from the body. The animal is extremely tough, so you will basically be sawing the legs off with a serrated knife and a fork to hold it in place. Make sure that the ink and guts are removed, Armando took these parts out at see, so I was in the clear. You can also tenderize the animal, and cut the main body/head into slightly smaller pieces. I could not bring myself to beat this animal who was still so close to life, so I decided to skip the tenderization and just cook it for longer.
5. Now that the water is boiling, aromatics are infused and octopus is prepped, add the octopus pieces to the boiling broth and cover.
6. Test the octopus after about 5 minutes to get a feel for how tough it is. You basically want to cook until the octopus is an enjoyable texture to eat, until it almost falls off of the fork when tested. It starts out VERY tough, and so will take a while to soften up to a good consistency. Mine took about 1.5 hours simmering in a covered cast iron dutch oven.
7. I also let the whole concoction rest for about 30min while I prepared the rest of the meal (which was fry bread made in another dutch oven over a fire). I think this resting period sealed the deal for the delicious end product!
8. Remove pulpo from pot, cut into bite sized pieces and serve!
The broth smelled delicious! And if we weren’t driving around in an RV through the desert with limited refrigeration I would absolutely have saved it to make a some sort of chowder.
Today, we are off to the Wall — Where the pumping WNW swell will be fully appreciated!