I learned this technique from Visi Irizar in San Sebastian. It is an amazingly easy preparation, in fact the most challenging part is cleaning the octopus. With luck, you have a fishmonger who will clean it for you. If you've never before prepared octopus, this is a great way to start.
It is best made with a medium-sized octopus, say 2-3 pounds. Smaller than that is not really appropriate. If all your fishmonger has a is a giant, that works as well...as long as you can buy just a tentacle or two!
Fresh octopus will, generally, have been beaten already, but if you're catching your own, it is important to thwack it on the dock to tenderize it. A better alternative is simply to use an octopus that has been frozen!
The quality of pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) you use is also important. "de la Vera" is the best! You can use either sweet or hot, depending on your preference. I use both, just depends on my mood and who I'm making this for. - innoabrd —innoabrd
Test Kitchen Notes
Confession: Before making innoabrd’s Pulpo a la Feira, whether buying, cooking or eating, my experience with octopus was limited. Admission: I am slightly embarrassed about this, given my life on an island with a rich history of enjoying the fruits of the Pacific Ocean. Time to get acquainted! I am so glad I did. The octopus I found was frozen and had already been cleaned (which, I’ve read, is how you are likely to find them at the market these days), which meant the rest of the recipe was a snap. After a few dips in hot water for a beautiful curl of the arms, and an extended boil to tender, pleasantly chewy perfection, all that is left is a quick dress in sea salt, olive oil and Pimenton de la Vera. It is so simple, and so good; each bite of mildly sweet octopus is robed in a lovely contrast of fruity olive oil and smoky paprika, with sea salt tying all the flavors together. I look forward to making this again! - gingerroot —gingerroot
Clean the octopus. This involves, if necessary, cutting out the beak and the eyes, cleaning out the head sack and brushing the suckers with your finger to make sure they are clean. Starting from the head, peal off as much of the thick outer skin as you can. No need to get too compulsive about it, you'll never get it all off and it isn't tough or in any way inedible.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. The water should be quite salty, "like the sea," I was taught.
Once the water has achieved a rapid boil, holding the octopus from the head side, dip the tentacles in the boiling water and hold it there for about 10-15 seconds, then pull it back out again. Let the water return to a rapid boil, then repeat, for a total of three times. This is meant to help you achieve an attractive curl on the ends of the tentacles.
Finally, ease your octopus all the way into the rapidly boiling water and leave on a hard boil for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the octopus sit in the water for an additional 15-20 minutes.
Remove the octopus from the water and let it cool for a few minutes so that you can handle it. Then slice it into bite-sized pieces. For the tentacle, the small tips can be left longer, but most of the tentacle you will slice into 14-3/8" rounds.
Arrange the octopus in a single layer on a serving platter (a wooden dish was traditionally used, but I find white porcelain to be quite pretty). Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and dust with the pimenton.