Random Ingredient: Octopus

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What is it? With the World Cup finally coming to a close, there's been a lot of chatter about a certain cephalopod named Paul that resides in Germany. With all due respect to the "octopus oracle," we present today's random ingredient.

Octopi are actually in the mollusk family. They're eaten all over the world, especially in Japan, where they're a common ingredient in sushi. The eight octopus arms are the most commonly eaten parts of the animal, but depending on the species, sometimes the entire body is edible. They come in all sizes, from tiny, bite-size animals that you eat in their entirety, to four-pounders.

Other countries where this enigmatic animal is considered a delicacy are Spain, Portugal and Greece. It is also a popular dish in our native Hawaii, due to the large Asian influence on the cuisine there.

What is it used for?

Octopus can be grilled, braised, poached, eaten raw (in sashimi, not sushi) or tossed in a stew or soup. It also can be chilled after any form of cooking and served in a salad. The texture of the octopus will depend on the method of cooking used. If raw, it will remain rubbery and tough. When poached for 4-5 minutes, it will become more tender, but still considerably chewy. This is the method used for sushi preparation and salads. The most tender result is from poaching the octopus for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the size of the octopus.

Where can you buy it in Houston?

You can buy it canned at Phoenicia - as shown in the picture above. However, we recommend frozen, as the canned ones are extremely fishy-tasting. Look for it at Central Market, 99 Ranch Market, Super H Mart, and various seafood markets around the city.

Recipe: Baby Octopus Salad: Courtesy of Epicurious.com

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