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I have heard about "polvo à feira" (Pulpo a la Gallega/Spannish style octopus) and I went on a search for recipes.

In one of my findings (https://youtu.be/bHSjnzNvJYo), I have seen Eric Ripert boiling the octopus with ham, celery, parsley, onion, garlic and seasonings (black pepper and paprika), in a process that he called a "broth".

As I am not familiar with it, is there advantages of doing a "broth" instead of a simple boil (in which one can add an onion) when it comes to the flavor?

  • 1
    boiling ham is a crime against ham :( – Stian Yttervik Nov 5 at 8:46
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    It is unless it's heavily salted for preservation @StianYttervik, boiling or soaking in water is very important to make it edible then. – GdD Nov 5 at 9:44
  • @GdD I have heard of soaking, but boiling? Guess I learned something new. Would you have compareable ...deliciousness...between a good ham (of which the spanish tradition have so many) and a... heavily salted and preserved ham, which has then been boiled? – Stian Yttervik Nov 5 at 10:51
  • In my experience not even close. An Iberico ham, parma ham, or just an average quality normal ham is far better than heavily salted hams, even after it's been soaked more than once. – GdD Nov 5 at 11:01
  • @StianYttervik Proscuitto, Iberico and the like are dry-cured meats, whereas hams of the type to be boiled to remove salt are wet-cured. A boiled ham subsequently roasted is the meat for your two veg, not charcuterie. I doubt one would want to eat a half inch slab of Iberico for dinner. Different foods for different purposes. – Tom W Nov 5 at 13:50
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Eric Ripert's approach is essentially that if the cooking liquid tastes good, it will help impart flavor on whatever you cook in that liquid.

By adding ham & aromatics, the goal is that the octopus will take on some of that flavor. By converse, the same theory would say that if you cook in a simpler, bland water, your octopus will flavor the water, and the water will dilute the octopus's flavor.

Whether it's necessary is really a point of personal preference. You may find that other ingredients in your recipe provide enough flavor that you can go with the simpler method, or you may find that it really needs that extra flavor.

In general, these seemingly complicated, seemingly unnecessary steps (like using broth instead of water) make restaurant dishes have a more complex, deeper taste. Sometimes that attention to detail is just the difference between a home cook and professional chef. Sometimes the difference can be subtle and feel "not worth it" when cooking at home--you'll have to decide that on your own.

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    I will definitely try out that extra step and will give you my feedback afterwards. But to have some level of comparison, I will do it on my "polvo à lagareiro" recipe, as I cook it more often and would easily notice the differences. – Goncalo Peres supports Monica Nov 4 at 13:40
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    What about the broth? After cooking fish in broth, you get boiled fish and a great base for fish-soup. Is octopus-soup worth making? – Ivana Nov 5 at 16:35
  • @Ivana I can imagine working out nicely. It should have some octopus, as a nice fish soup has fish. – Goncalo Peres supports Monica Nov 5 at 19:44

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