I do love fresh seafood. But growing up as a kid, I have to admit that I had the strongest aversion to it. Not just fish, mind you, but generally everything seafood. Try as my parents might to convert me, somewhere in my early memories was an ill-fated plate of baked bluefish that turned me off to anything that faintly reeked of the sea. If my family was eating fish, I opted for anything but.
It wasn’t until I left college and ate sushi for the first time (on a dare from a business colleague), that my tastes changed for the better. Holy mackerel!! (Pun intended). I thought for the very first time: here’s fish that doesn’t tasty fishy! Of course the one piece of sushi that I couldn’t quite warm up to was the octopus. It wasn’t the smell that turned me off. It was the texture. Most of it was so chewy that I thought I was gnawing on the cover of a Titleist golf ball. No Thanks!
A few years back, a visit to Galicia changed my shortsighted perspective yet again. People in Spain have an affinity for fresh seafood. It could be the fact that Iberia is nearly surrounded by ocean. It also means that the locals know where to get it fresh and have a knack for preparing it.
The dish I’m referring to is a Galician classic, Pulpo Gallego. Here the practice of flash freezing and then gently boiling the octopus in salted water tenderizes the meat. It’s then further transformed with the addition of good Spanish olive oil, salt and hot pimenton (Spain’s famous smoked paprika).
For a wine pairing, I suggest a crisp dry white wine like an Albariño. We’ve just received the new 2014 vintage of an old favorite of ours, Bodegas La Val Orballo Albariño ($15). Albariño is a Galician grape, produced in DO Rias Baixas. It’s the premier variety grown along the region’s craggy Atlantic coast, yielding zesty, crisp, keenly vibrant wines with complex bouquet and persistence on the palate. Bodegas La Val is one of the top estates in Rias Baixas and their Orballo bottling is reminiscent of fresh green apple, citrus, stone fruits with lovely mineral streak. It’s just perfect for fresh seafood, like Pulpo Gallego!
Here’s a great recipe for Pulgo Gallego from celebrity Spanish chef Jose Andres as detailed in The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega. This cookbook is a must for tapas!
Octopus with Paprika Recipe (Pulpo Gallego)
- 2 1/4 pounds octopus
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Pinch hot paprika
- Salt, optional
15 minutes prep time
45 minutes cooking time
- 1. To tenderize the octopus, freeze it overnight before cooking. When you’re about 45 minutes away from your desired serving time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the frozen octopus, and cook until tender, about 35 minutes, depending on the size and age of the octopus. You will need to test a piece of octopus to ensure it is cooked thoroughly. Drain the octopus and rinse under cold running water.
- 2. Remove and discard any dark skin from the octopus. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Place the meat in a bowl, pour the oil over the top, sprinkle with hot paprika to taste, and season with salt, if desired. Mix well, ensuring the octopus is thoroughly coated. Serve immediately or transfer the octopus and oil to a heatproof bowl, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in an oven that’s as low as it goes.
Sweet Paprika Variation:
Heat 3/4 cup olive oil in a pan over low heat. Add about 1/4 of an onion, roughly chopped, and 1 garlic clove and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in sweet paprika to taste. Add the flavored oil to the octopus pieces, mix well, and serve immediately.
Jim Greeley, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineJimG