My sister and brother in-law recently visited the city of Los Mochis, situated in an ideal spot in the Northern part of the state of Sinaloa; next to the port of Topolobampo, and at the starting point of the railway connecting to mountainous Northern regions, the city offers a manifold selection of attractions and restaurants. The port of Topolobampo is an important hub for commercial and sport fishing, and there are several nearby beaches to visit. In the city, its oldest church, the parish of El Sagrado Corazón – The Sacred Heart, built between 1919 and 1922, was designed with a single bell tower and a pristine white façade of stucco (photo below, left); the nearby Jardín Botánico – Botanical Garden (photo below, right), was the former home of, and named after, businessman Benjamin F. Johnston, founder of the sugarcane mill at the turn of the 20th century, around which Los Mochis grew and formed as a community:
During their visit, my sister and brother in-law enjoyed a delicious meal of pulpo a la plancha – octopus on the griddle, served with salad and rice, and a selection of condiments on the table, as shown below:
I decided to cook some pulpo a la plancha at home here in Canada; the octopus may be bought raw, fresh or frozen, then cooked (as directed below), or already cooked (as I have used in other recipes). I am sharing a classic recipe for the octopus, and chose to serve whole tentacles (as shown at the top of the post), but alternatively, the cooked octopus may be chopped, as at the restaurant in Los Mochis (shown above). For the side, any rice, salad or slaw will work; I chose my Couscous Salad with a Mexican Twist. Finally, a good variety of sauces may be recruited, starting with bottled Huichol™ as shown above, plus my Asian Inspired Sauce (similar to La Negra Va™), and a spicy one, as Siete Mares™, for example, my Spicy Chile de Arbol Sauce (click on highlighted text for my recipes).
How to Clean and Cook Octopus –
If bought frozen, place package in a bowl and allow to thaw in the fridge (photo below, left). Once thawed, place bowl in the sink, remove and discard all packaging, then rinse octopus under running water (photo below, right):
To clean the octopus, start by locating the head pouch opening, at the back of the head (photo below, left). Flip the pouch inside out (photo below, right):
There might be still organs in the pouch, which have to be removed by separating along with any membranes (photo below, left); also trim tendons or any other hard tissue with scissors (photo below, centre). The inside of the pouch should look completely smooth and white (photo below, right):
Flip the pouch back, and turn to the front of the head, to locate the eyes, at the bottom of it, when it starts to form a neck (photo below, left). Trim skin around each eye, and remove each eye ball whole, being careful not to break it (photo below, right):
Find the mouth on the bottom side of the body, where the tentacles meet (photo below, left). Widen the opening, making small incisions with the tip of the scissors (photo below, right):
Pop the ball sitting just inside the mouth, called sometimes “the beak” (photo below, left); remove and discard (photo below, right):
Discard any sitting water, which will probably look murky at this point (photo below, left). Wash the octopus under running water, rubbing the skin, and each tentacle, to remove debris or sand (photo below, centre). The water should look clear at the end (photo below, right):
Now the octopus is ready for cooking. There are many methods and ways to prep octopus; all the Mexican recipes I reviewed required “espantar al pulpo” – “to scare the octopus” (LOL) which means to submerge and extract it into and from a pot of boiling water. I can only think of trying to avoid thermal shock as a reason to do this procedure, which would be unnecessary if starting with the octopus in a pot of cold water, but since every single Mexican cook seems to follow this step, I decided to honour the method.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Hold the octopus by the head, and dip most of the tentacles and body into the water (photo below, left). Count to five, then lift the octopus; the tentacles will look curled now (photo below, right):
Repeat the dipping and lifting two more times, waiting a few seconds in between, and just dropping the octopus into the pot after the third lift (photo below, left). Bring to a boil, and skim foam off the top with a spoon (photo below, right):
Reduce the heat to medium, and cover pot (photo below, left). Allow to cook for 35 to 40 minutes, then start checking doneness every 5 minutes, by piercing the thickest part of the body (in between tentacles) with the tip of a knife or a skewer, until there is barely any resistance (photo below, right):
Remove the whole pot from the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature before handling the octopus, to avoid damaging the skin.
Cooked octopus may be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days in a container with lid, either on its own, or with some of the cooking water, as shown below:
When ready to proceed with any recipe, separate each tentacle cutting with a knife on either side, towards the body (photo below, left); the rest may be sliced (photo below, centre). For some recipes, it may be cut into smaller pieces (photo below, right):
Octopus on the Griddle – Pulpo a la Plancha
Ingredients (for two portions)
2/3 lb (300g) cooked octopus (whole tentacles, or chopped into bite size pieces)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly grated pepper, to taste
Warm up oil in a griddle or iron skillet over medium heat; add octopus, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and allow to cook and char a little on one side, for two to three minutes:
Flip to the other side, season again with salt and pepper, and add chopped garlic, cooking for another two to three minutes:
Serve hot with a side including fresh vegetables, in this case, a portion of my Couscous Salad with a Mexican Twist:
The octopus meat was so tender and yet not mushy, full of flavour and complemented by the notes of garlic and other seasonings:
I am also sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #534, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.