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Pulpoala Parilla

Pulpoala Parilla

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If you haven't thought about serving octopus before, here's your chance to do so. Using a smaller octopus means more tender results in less time, so forget all the chewy renditions you've had before; this elegant appetizer is sure to impress.


For the vinaigrette

  • 1/3 Cup lemon juice
  • 1 Cup soy oil
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the cactus salad

  • 4 -5 medium-sized cactus paddles
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1/2 Pound queso fresco, diced finely

For the black olive caramel

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 Cup Kalamata olives, pitted

For the octopus

  • 4 quarts water
  • 3 Tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 Pound Spanish or Portuguese octopus
  • Vegetable oil, for grilling
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Segovia is famous for Cochinillo Asado.

Alternatively, El Botin restaurant in Madrid is a popular place to try the dish. El Botin is the world's oldest restaurant, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, and it features in my list of the 13 Best Madrid Restaurants That Won't Break the Bank.

There is also a great bar in nearby Salamanca (called 'Don Cochinillo', appropriately) on c/Van Dyck (on the western end, near the cinemas) where a glass of wine and a piece of excellent Cochinillo will set you back under 3€.

The nearest airports to Segovia and Salamanca are Madrid and Valladolid.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 20 capers, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken-flavored demi-glace, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, or to taste
  • 2 lemon slices

In a small bowl, stir together the garlic and butter until well combined. Set aside. Place a chicken breast half on a work surface with the thick side facing to the right (if you're right-handed), and place your left hand down on the chicken breast. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the chicken breast from the thick side to about 1/2 inch from the edge of the thin side, in a horizontal cut. Open the cut chicken breast and spread it out like an open book. Using a meat mallet, gently pound the butterflied chicken breast out until it's an even thickness.

Place the flour into a shallow dish, and dredge each chicken breast on both sides with flour. Melt the garlic butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it stops foaming, and cook each chicken breast until golden brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken breasts to a platter, and keep warm.

Cook and stir the mushrooms in the same skillet as the chicken until the mushrooms have absorbed the remaining butter in the skillet and have begun to turn brown at the edges. Stir in capers, lemon juice, white wine, and chicken demi-glace, and stir to combine. Reduce to a simmer. Adjust salt and pepper again, and stir the parsley into the sauce.

Remove the chicken breasts to plates, and serve the sauce over the chicken. Garnish each serving with a lemon slice.

Pulpo a la parrilla con puré y mayonesa de wasabi

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  • 1100 g de pulpo congelado (descongelado)
  • 1100 g de agua
  • 70 g de cebolla
  • 1 hoja de laurel seca
  • 1 cucharadita de sal
  • 200 g de ramilletes de coliflor
  • 300 - 500 g de patatas en rodajas
  • 20 g de mantequilla
  • 2 pellizcos de nuez moscada molida
  • 1 pellizco de pimienta molida

Mayonesa de wasabi

  • 3 - 4 cucharadas de mayonesa
  • ½ - 1 cucharadita de wasabi en polvo
    or ½ - 1 cucharadita de wasabi en pasta

Montaje del plato

  • 1 - 2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
  • 1 paquete de brotes germinados (rábanos, remolacha, etc.)

Pulpo a la Parilla (Charcoal Grilled Octopus)


1.) Clean octopus by removing brains and innards, nearly all of which are found in the head.

2.) Bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil and add octopus with a pinch of salt, teaspoon of garlic, and squeeze of lemon or lime. Instantly when dropping the octopus in the hot water it will stiffen up. Reduce heat to a slow boil (medium heat) and cover for 30 minutes to an hour until the meat is tender. The time depends on the size of your octopus. I recommend for 1 kilo/2 pounds just thirty minutes, though many opt for longer. Poke with a sharp knife to determine tenderness.

3.) Drain pot and remove octopus. Cut octopus in desire size pieces. The smaller the pieces the less time they require on the grill. I recommend leaving the tentacles whole, so they can stay on the grill longer. Add pieces to marinade (see below) and soak for about an hour. Set aside.

4.) Heat charcoal grill until fire is hot (make sure you can keep your hand over flame for 10 seconds, otherwise it is too hot). Rack should be about 6 inches from flame.

5.) Brush octopus with olive (or Sesame) oil and sprinkle with salt and then add to grill. Only keep on grill for 4-8 minutes, no more. The outside should brown, but you don’t want to dry the insides out.


I occasionally cook octopus (links to several recipes are below). It’s a bit of a process, but pretty straightforward once you conquer any initial queasiness about this slippery cephalopod. But, it was finding packaged cooked octopus at the supermarket that inspired me to prepare grilled octopus at home.

Yes, you have to cook the octopus before grilling. Grilling does not cook the octopus, it provides “value added.” It takes about three minutes and adds the distinctive flavors of seared flesh and smoke. Starting with pre-cooked octopus, it’s quick and easy. So much so that no recipe is needed, just a little orientation.

If you buy fresh, uncooked octopus, it must first be tenderized by freezing it for three days (never mind beating it). Thaw, then cook it in simmering water for 10 to 15 minutes per pound or until tender when tested with a skewer. Discard viscera from inside the head and the mouth beak. Do not remove the skin. (Complete instructions are here.)

Small octopus (1-pound or less) can be grilled whole. Large ones need to be dismembered—cut off each tentacle (it’s actually an “arm” or, in Spanish, a “pata.”) to be grilled separately and cut the head into several strips. Keep the purplish skin with the suckers intact, if possible. The skin helps to keep the octopus juicy.

Cooked, shrink-wrapped octopus tentacles.

The cooked octopus I purchased was already divided into tentacles. They only needed washing and patting dry.

If you plan to grill the octopus over coals, brush the pieces with oil. If grilling on a plancha or in a skillet, heat the plancha, then brush oil on the grill, not the octopus.

Heat the grill very hot, so the octopus quickly sears and does not release a lot of juice. Once one side is browned, use tongs to turn it.

How to serve? Grilled octopus is amazing straight off the grill, with the skin just a little crispy. It can be served as finger food—just pick up a tentacle with fingers—or cut into bite-size pieces.

In Galicia (northwest Spain), octopus is invariably served with a simple ajada of coarse salt, olive oil and pimentón (paprika). In Andalusia (southern Spain), it is accompanied by aliño, a dressing of chopped garlic, parsley, olive oil and lemon. I made a sauce by combining mayonnaise with both hot and sweet pimentón.

In Galicia, octopus is usually paired with cachelos, boiled potatoes, dressed with the same oil and pimentón as the octopus. Another version calls for smooth mashed potatoes. I served the octopus with “smashed” potatoes.

Mexican Pulpo Rivals the Best in the World…

…at least in the parts of the world where I’ve eaten. Having lived in Spain and Portugal for the last few years, we’ve had a lot of amazing pulpo (octopus). Arguably some of the best in the world. We are thrilled to find that the pulpo in the restaurants of San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City has been as good as anything we had from the Iberian Peninsula.

When we arrived in Mexico City, we wanted our first meal to be traditional Mexican to really get us into the mood of the place. We had dinner at La Soldadera, a restaurant located across from the Monumento a la Revolucion that specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine. Among the classic dishes on the menu, we were surprised to see Pulpo a la Gallega, a reminder of the Spanish heritage influence in Mexican food. Having recently spent time in Galicia, Spain eating lots of pulpo, we were very curious to see how La Soldadera’s preparation compared.

The Pulpo a la Gallega came out as a whole octopus seasoned with paprika, olive oil, and sea salt surrounded by slices of potato cooked in oil. While the seasonings were essentially the same as in Galicia, this pulpo had a little kick. I would swear that they snuck some chili pepper in there somewhere, or perhaps just a spicier paprika. The meat itself was so tender that you could slide your fork through it.

Pulpo a la Gallega, La Soldadera Mexico City

This rivaled the pulpo we had in Spain, or Portugal, or really anywhere that we’ve eaten octopus. I realized that I knew very little about octopus in Mexico. With a little research, this is what I learned…

Mexico is now the world’s third largest producer of octopus with most of it coming from the Gulf of Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula. Seventy percent (70%) of the catch is sent to European markets including Greece, Italy, France, and even Spain. The popularity of octopus in Galicia is so high, that local catches can’t meet the demand, forcing them to import octopus from other countries. It is quite possible that the octopus we were enjoying in Spain actually came from Mexico.

Two species of octopus come from the Yucatan Peninsula. Octopus vulgaris, the common octopus, is the same as that found in the Mediterranean and worldwide. Octopus maya, also called the Mexican four-eyed octopus or Red octopus, is unique and native to the Gulf of Mexico and accounts for 80% of the octopus caught in the Yucatan. The Yucatan Peninsula state governments of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan are seeking denomination of origin status to provide international recognition and protection to their native octopus.

Personal experience has taught us that cooking octopus is a tricky thing to master. Transforming those meaty tentacles into tender chewable morsels has been an ongoing project of ours. For those that have it figured out, octopus is very versatile. It can be boiled or roasted, finished on the grill or braised on the stovetop.

Chefs all over San Miguel de Allende have it figured out, setting us off on a pulpo quest. Pulpo graces the menus of restaurants all over town something that we didn’t expect so far away from the coast. We have found delicious, tender pulpo in many forms: grilled whole tentacles, chopped into tacos, topping tostadas, and chilled in ceviches. And we didn’t really have to try that hard! Here are some of our favorites…so far:

At Bovine Brasserie at Canal 16 in Centro, Australian chef Paul Bentley grills the pulpo and drapes the whole tentacles over a creamy chickpea puree. The pulpo is a good combination of tender meat inside with a little caramelized chewiness to the outside. Fried chickpeas scattered around the plate add a crunchy element to the textures of the dish.

Pulpo al Grill, Bovine Brasserie

Taco Lab, located inside of Doce 18 Concept House, is a collaboration between San Miguel de Allende chef Donnie Masterton and California restaurateur Joe Hargrave. Their charred pulpo taco is a delicious handful. Soft chunks of pulpo are enveloped in a warm tortilla with melted jack cheese, topped with slices of avocado and crumbles of chopped peanuts with chili de arbol. It is our favorite of all the tacos we’ve tried at Taco Lab, and they are all pretty great.

Pulpo Taco (on left) at Taco Lab

On what is considered by some to be one of the best rooftops in the world, Chef Gonzalo Martínez of Quince has a more contemporary take on Mexican cuisine. You can find pulpo tostadas all over town, but not all tostadas are this ornate. The Tostada de pulpo a la parrilla (chargrilled octopus tostada) is loaded with fried slices of pulpo and roasted tomatoes on a crunchy tostada spread with black beans, habanero mayo and dollops of avocado mousse. This version of octopus was chewier than we typically like but the intense flavors produced more than made up for the texture. Not too spicy, the dish had a warm, subtle heat that was nice with a glass of Mexican rosado wine.

Tostada de pulpo a la parrilla, Quince Rooftop

Outside of Centro at Marios Mariscos estilo Mazatlan, we found pulpo heaven. Mario does pulpo in at least eight different ways. He tosses it in ceviches and cocktails, wraps it in tacos and burritos, and puts it on tostadas to name a few. We like the classic pulpo ceviche, in which the pulpo is a perfect al dente combination of crisp and tender, seasoned with lime, tomatoes, onions, cucumber and cilantro. We fully intend to go back and try the many other versions of pulpo and other fresh seafood at Mario’s.

Pulpo Ceviche, Marios Mariscos estilo Mazatlan

We’ve only been in San Miguel for about a month and there are so many more pulpo dishes to try. Have we missed your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Pulpoala Parilla - Recipes

I remember the first time I saw my Mom make this dish I ran. The way it’s made in Puerto Rico the rice is grey and it was not very appealing. The squid comes in its own ink and it’s canned. Not as intense as it is prepared in Spain (from Catalonia and Andalusia) where you buy your fresh squid and sacks of ink.

While visiting friends in Puerto Rico, I came across this can and purchased it for future use. I get nostalgic about my Mom. My best memories are the ones we shared at home with family, friends, food (the three “F’s”) and “mucha musica” (lots of music).

I have decided to play with her recipe and add my touch. As I start this post, I still don’t know what I am going to come up with.


1- 8 oz can squid in its ink

1 medium roasted red pepper

4 cloves of garlic, crushed leaving skin

1-1/2 cups of short grain rice

1/2 cup red wine – Rioja or a Cabernet

a piece of octopus. as shown ( I go to my Greek market which its cooked and ready to go)

olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper to taste for shrimp/octopus marinade. I marinated for about 2 hours.


Heat your pan with olive oil, add onions and crushed garlic cook until translucent then the tomatoes, pepper, canned squid and red wine until bubbling.

Add your rice stirring as you would risotto. Mix your water and clam juice and continue to add as the rice absorbs the liquid. This took about 35 minutes.

Meantime, grill your shrimp and octopus. Mix into rice, plate and serve immeditely.


Chili sauce

Step 1

Purée garlic, ginger, chile, chili paste, fish sauce, lime juice, gochugaru, and vinegar in a blender until smooth.

Step 2

DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Octopus and assembly

Step 3

Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, carrot, and celery, stirring often, until softened, 8–10 minutes. Add coriander seeds and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and 6 cups water season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Step 4

Add octopus to liquid, reduce heat, and partially cover pot. Simmer gently, turning octopus occasionally, until flesh is tender enough to cut with a spoon, 60–75 minutes. Transfer octopus to a platter with a slotted spoon let cool. Rub off skin with paper towels. Separate tentacles and cut into equal lengths.

Step 5

Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Toss octopus with 1 Tbsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, until charred, 8–10 minutes. Brush with chili sauce (you may not use all of it) and cook, turning occasionally, until sauce is deeply caramelized, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with butter to coat.

Step 6

Toss herbs, lime juice, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl season with salt and pepper. Swipe yogurt across plates and top with octopus, then herb salad drizzle with more oil.

Step 7

DO AHEAD: Octopus can be braised 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.