Tuesday night not only gave us the first game of the 2021-22 NHL season, and the inaugural game of the Seattle Kraken but also the first example of hockey food preparation, courtesy of the Las Vegas Golden Knight.
Standing on the team crest, the Knight sears the Kraken with what I assume is the power of sunlight. The goal achieved is the same, the charred squid retreats to the salty depths to lick its wounds and fight another day.
As someone with a deep love for squid as a go-to protein, much to the chagrin of my disliked wife, I have some strong opinions about grilling and searing cephalopods. At high temperatures, it requires a dexterous hand, a good sense of timing and good preparation to avoid the unfair labeling of squid as tough or rubbery.
While I appreciate Golden Knights inherent technique of burning it with fire, I think a little nuance can really improve the mascot’s cooking game.
No. 1: Massage the octopus/squid, if you want to go that far
I will freely admit that I only did this step once. I’ll skip it, largely out of laziness, but I promise it makes a difference. The two great sources of inspiration for squid massage come from Greece and Japan.
In Greece you will regularly see fishermen and cooks holding the squid by the tentacles and bash is over the coastal rocks as the water washes over them. This is quite simple and is similar to using a meat tenderizer on a tough piece of steak. You break down the long protein strands, making them easier to chew.
Japanese culture goes a step further. A runway at many sushi restaurants is an octopus massager, where, in addition to washing dishes, your main task is to massage the octopus into a bowl of salt 20-30 minutes prior to serving. It’s a gentler technique, better suited to raw cooking, but essentially accomplishes the same thing.
No. 2: Marinade is your friend when you are lazy
I prefer a more passive approach when it comes to tenderizing which is the tried and true of soaking it in acid for a while. To this end, I have two main blends: one is Mediterranean with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The other is Asian inspired, with soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, a dash of sesame oil and the chili paste Sambal Oelek, a gift from God.
Seal it tightly in a bag, stick it in the fridge, give it at least an hour.
No. 3: High heat, short time
I’m far from an expert on tentacle delicacies, but I’ve learned that you really want a lot of heat and a short amount of time. A grill is totally workable, but honestly I’ve come to prefer using my beloved well seasoned cast iron skillet
Let that thing get roaring hot, add a little bit of oil and sear larger octopus for 3-4 minutes per side like a mid-rare steak, and no more than a minute or two on a smaller squid. This cooks quickly and overcooked is your mortal enemy, just like scallops.
Finish with a squeeze of lemon or yuzu and enjoy.
So why squid and octopus?
Of course, as I get older, I worry more about the future of our food chains. When it comes to seafood, octopus and squid are pretty much the perfect foods that we should all be eating more of.
- They are naturally resistant to climate change, making them immune to environmental pressures.
- They grow to full size in 1-2 years versus 2-5 years for salmon, or 3-5 years for tuna.
- They are extremely low in calories and fat, while being very high in protein by weight.
- They are low in mercury, compared to other seafood.
They are incredibly intelligent. Easily smarter than some people I’ve interacted with and that feels bad.
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