Olive oil is one of the key ingredients in this recipe, so it should come as no surprise that its original creators are said to be Portuguese olive farm workers (the lagareiros mentioned in the Portuguese name). They first created the cod-based dish, bacalhau á lagareiro, and used it as the basis to prepare this octopus dish, polvo á lagareiro, in the fall, when the olives were crushed to make olive oil.
In light of this history, it is important to choose the right olive oil to use in this recipe. Although you should feel free to make this Portuguese octopus recipe with whatever olive oil you’ve already got in your kitchen cabinet, we recommend using a high-quality one whenever possible. When you read the phrase “high-quality oil,” you might be thinking 100% pure extra-virgin, which is indeed high in quality, but remember extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and will degrade more than other oils at high heat. Instead of looking for that extra-virgin label, try to find a bottle containing a blend of oils from as few farms (or countries!) as possible. Even if you’re sticking with your regular go-to pick from the supermarket, the most important thing you should be on the lookout for whenever you use olive oil is that its best by date hasn’t passed. Feel free to experiment with different olive oils every time you make this Portuguese octopus recipe. You just might feel as expert as the lagareiros who first created it.
This traditional Portuguese octopus recipe is often served on Christmas Eve in Portugal, and it’s sure to delight your family and friends this holiday season. Although it is eaten all over the country, in and around Braganza, octopus is traditionally served as an appetizer at Christmas dinner before the main dish of cod. So, feel free to serve this dish either as a main dish or do as the Portuguese do and serve it before another dish made from the delicacies of the sea.
3 lbs octopus (three packages of frozen or refrigerated el Rey del Pulpo precooked half octopus)
¾ cup olive oil
2 heads of garlic
1 tbs salt (+1 tbs salt for the potatoes)
2 lbs small potatoes
2 bay leaves