Pronunciation: [AHK-tuh-puhs]

Though there are some 50-foot specimens—and despite the fact that it's also called devilfish—this monster of the deep is not particularly fearful and seldom reaches the size seen in the movies. In fact, the majority reach only 1 to 2 feet (tentacles extended) and weigh about 3 pounds. As a member of the cephalopod class in the mollusk family, the octopus is related to the squid and cuttlefish. Its rich diet of clams and scallops gives it a highly flavorful meat that, though rubbery, is extremely popular in Japan and the Mediterranean countries. Predressed fresh and frozen octopus is available in many supermarkets and specialty fish markets. As with most species, those that are younger and smaller are more tender. The 8 tentacles and the body to which they're attached are edible, but the eyes, mouth area and viscera are discarded. The ink sac contains a black liquid that can be used to color and flavor foods such as pasta, soups and stews. Smoked and canned octopus are also available. Octopus can be eaten in a variety of ways including raw, boiled and pickled, sautéed, deep-fried or for more mature specimens, simmered or boiled for several hours. See also shellfish.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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