The giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is a cephalopod mollusk that like the other free swimming invertebrates, squid and cuttlefish, lacks a hard shell. The largest of the species, the giant Pacific octopus grows to as much as 135 pounds during a three-to-five year life span. Its range extends from southern California, north along the coastline in an arc over the Pacific and across the Aleutians, then south to Japan. They can be found from the intertidal zone to depths of 2,000 feet where they live in dens and crevices or behind barricades which they construct from large stones on the ocean floor.
Like squid, the giant Pacific octopus is capable of producing a dark ink-like fluid from its internal ink sacs, which clouds the water to allow escape from predators. The giant Pacific octopus is also a master of camouflage, capable of blending in perfectly on sand and then swimming over to a kelp bed where it will completely change color and even start swaying in the current like part of the kelp. With excellent vision, the giant Pacific octopus tends to feed at night on mollusks and crustaceans.
Harvested by dive fishery or as bycatch in the directed Pacific cod and sablefish trap fisheries, the giant Pacific octopus is well-suited for commercial exploitation as it is fast growing, early maturing, short lived, and abundant. Males die within a few months of mating and females die shortly after their 20,000 to 100,000 eggs hatch into planktonic or free-swimming larvae. About one percent of the larvae survive and, once settled to the sea floor, grow rapidly.
The giant Pacific octopus features a highly flavorful meat which is considered a delicacy. When simmered, the flesh will change color and become delicate and tender. Giant Pacific octopus is also a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, including sushi, takoyaki and akashiyaki.
Chef Gita Seaton of Montreal's Nouveaus Palais on giant Pacific octopus:
How to Prepare Give the octopus a very thorough rinse in cold water. Meanwhile, prepare a large stockpot with water, white wine, salt, peppercorns, onions, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves. Add the octopus to the stockpot while the water is still cold. Turn the heat to high bringing the water to a boil. Then reduce the temperature to low and allow to simmer until the octopus is knife tender, but not overcooked. This should take about 30 to 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the octopus in the water until cool. Once cooled, remove the octopus from the stockpot and pat it dry with paper towels. The octopus is now ready to be cut into portions and marinated or grilled (or both). Marinate with olive oil, peppercorns, lemon zest, garlic, mint, parsley and sweet onions. Serve on your favourite salad greens and enjoy!
Japanese Style Octopus by the "corporate chef" of Organic Ocean, Kenji :
This is not Japanese, but Kenji's own recipe and it was a crowd favourite. It is a Italian style octopus salad and it's light, acidic, salty and Mediterranean in flavours and concept. Wash the octopus with potato starch instead of salt to remove the slime. Boil the octopus for 3-5 minutes so the outside is cooked, but the inside is still raw. Thinly slice the tentacles. Allow to cool and top with sliced Mediterranean olives and chopped basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle of salt to finish.
Japanese Style Octopus Sashimi
This was similar to the carpaccio, but Japanese in flavours and style. The acid was softer being ponzu instead of balsamic and it gave it a fruity aspect. Wash the octopus with potato starch instead of salt to remove the slime. Boil the octopus for 3-5 minutes so the outside is cooked, but the inside is still raw. Thinly slice the tentacles.Top with grated Chinese radish (daikon) marinated in ponzu and chilies.
Japanese Style Pressure Cooked Octopus
Pressure cooked octopus is the way to go. The texture was incredible and I was so surprised it didn't overcook or get tough and chewy.1. Wash the octopus with potato starch instead of salt to remove the slime. Fill the pressure cooker with dashi stock (Japanese seafood broth). Home made is always best, but Kenji used instant and it was still delicious. Put the octopus in the dashi broth and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Mix the dashi stock with some salt, soy sauce and Japanese rice wine. Drizzle the sauce over the sliced ocotpus and serve chilled.
Takoyaki are popular Japanese street snacks. They are Japanese octopus balls/fritters made with a Japanese style pancake batter, scallions, octopus and tempura bits. The recipe will vary, but traditionally each ball always has a piece of octopus and pickled ginger. Kenji just used a prepared takoyaki batter for this and to cater to Western tastes he didn't include the pickled ginger. So while this recipe was not "authentic", it was still excellent.
Takoyaki is always finished with Japanese mayo, takoyaki sauce, bonito flakes and dried seaweed. If you've never tried takoyaki you can also try them at many Japanese restaurants around town. It is often found under appetizers.