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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Pulpo a la Gallega (Gal: Polbo a la Galega), Octopus Galician Style is Close to Being the National Dish of Galicia, is Enjoyed All Over Spain and is a Great Match for Ribeiro Wines

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Polbo (pulpo, or octopus) is so highly estemed in Galicia that monuments such as this public water source 
in the village at Vilanova de Arosa (Pontevedra) is dedicated to Galician women cooking octopus. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Perhaps with the exception of lacón con grelos (a dish made with grelos, turnip or parsnip greens, pork shoulder, chorizo, potatoes and Spanish pimentón) and caldo gallego (a stew of pork, beef and or chicken with chorizo and/or bacon; turnip greens, collard greens or green cabbage; white beans and potatoes), pulpo a la gallega (polbo a la galega in Galcian) is the most ubiquitous dish in Galicia.  Although it is a dish now served in many parts of Spain, the Gallegos never seem to get enough of it. 

Steamed polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Gallician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, though now prohibited in some restaurants by the health authorities (Duh! The restaurants wash the plates in hot water like everything else), is best served on a wooden plate, which absorbs excess water.  At Bar Pintos, Cambados (Pontevedra), Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Octopus is usually frozen to tenderize it--sometimes it is pounded--then boiled until tender in a stock pot or, in Galician fiestas, in large metal kettles. The steamed octopus is then cut with kitchen shears with bit-sized pieces, placed on a plate (best on the now forbidden [in restaurants, at least] round wooden plates, as served at fiestas; the wooden plates absorb some of the water, instead of allowing it to pool up below the octopus as on a normal plate. After the octopus is plated, it is dressed with Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, speared with toothpicks and served with good Galician bread. Sometimes steamed potatoes, another adored Galician staple are served with the pulpo.

Galician woman outside a restaurant in Ribadavia (Ourense), Galicia, preparing steamed
 polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Galician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

It is claimed that the best octopus cooks are women from the inland towns of Carballiño and Ribadavia in the province of Ourense.  Since the best polbo a la galega supposedly comes from frozen octopus, this is not as unreasonable as it sounds, even though these towns are at least an hour from the nearest seacoast.  One Sunday morning in the center of Ribadavia, which has an exceptional old Jewish quarter (14th-16th centuries), I encountered a woman in front of a bar preparing polbo a la galega (see photos in slide show).

Pulpo that has been steamed, at a restaurant in Ribadavia in the Ribeiro wine district. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Another day, I was invited by my friend Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, who makes an exceptional Ribeiro wine in nearby Beade, to a special polbo a la galega day at a restaurant in Ribadavia.  The was a wait to get into the restaurant even though this dish can be found in almost any tapas bar or traditional restaurant in Galicia on any given day. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Slide show, Octopus.  
(Double click on images to enlarge.)

A modern rendition of pulpo a la gallega, this poached octopus in a pure of potatoes with Spanish pimentón (paprika) and olive oil, at Ibiza Tapas, 93 Mill Plain Rd, Danbury, CT (203) 616-5731, October 23, 2015. Ibiza owner and native Gallego Ignacio Blanco is a veteran restaurateur from Galicia, who achieved three stars from the New York Times for his NYC restaurant Meigas, which closed after 9/11. Ignacio and his two chefs have developed a series of dishes that amount to some of the greatest Spanish tapas I have ever eaten in the United States. For young local chefs who want to learn about modernized traditional Spanish cuisine done by a real professional, if you can't get to Spain right now, get thyself to Danbury, Connecticut to this unassuming, but attractively decorated restaurant in an unprepossessing little shopping center on the Western edge of Danbury, just off Exit Two (Mill Plain Road/ Route 2012). Photo by Gerry Dawes©2015 / / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Pinterest. Samsung Galaxy S5 Phone Camera 16MB.

About Gerry Dawes   

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

Trailer for a proposed reality television series  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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