Tuesday night not only gave us the first game of the 2021-22 NHL season and the opening game of the Seattle Kraken – it also gave us the first example of hockey food preparation courtesy of the Las Vegas Golden Knight.
Standing on the team’s coat of arms, the knight scorches the octopus with the power of sunlight, I suppose. The goal achieved is the same, the charred squid retreats into the salty depths to lick its wounds and fight another day.
As someone with a deep penchant for squid as the protein of choice, much to the chagrin of my wife who doesn’t like it, I have strong opinions about grilling and searing cephalopods. In extreme heat, it takes a skilled hand, good timing, and proper preparation to avoid unfairly labeling squid as “tough” or “rubbery”.
While I appreciate the “burning with fire” technique inherent in the Golden Knight, I think a little nuance could really improve the mascot’s cooking game.
# 1: massage the octopus / squid if you want to go that far
I freely admit that I only took this step once. I mostly skip it out of laziness – but I promise it makes a difference. The two great inspirations for the squid massage come from Greece and Japan.
In Greece, you will regularly see fishermen and cooks holding the squid by the tentacles and slapping them over rocks by the sea as the water rinses over them. This is pretty simple and is similar to using a meat tenderizer on a tough steak. They break down the long strands of protein, which makes them easier to chew.
Japanese culture goes one step further. A starting job in many sushi restaurants is the “octopus massager,” where your main job besides washing up is to massage the octopus in a bowl of salt for 20-30 minutes before serving. It’s a gentler technique that goes better with the raw preparation – but does essentially the same thing.
# 2: marinade is your friend when you’re lazy
I prefer a more passive approach when it comes to tenderizing, this is the tried and tested “soaking in acid”. For this purpose I have two main mixes: One is Mediterranean with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The other is Asian-inspired and uses soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, a touch of sesame oil and the sambal oelek chili paste – a gift from God.
Close tightly in a bag, stick in the refrigerator, give 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 very high heat and short time. A grill is perfectly workable, but honestly I prefer to use my beloved, well-seasoned cast iron pan
Bring the thing to a roar, add just a touch of heated oil, and sauté larger octopus for 3-4 minutes per side like a medium steak, and no more than a minute or two for a smaller squid. This cooks quickly, and overcooking is your mortal enemy – just like scallops.
Finish with a squirt or lemon or yuzu and enjoy.
So why squid and octopus?
As I get older, of course, I am more concerned about the future of our food chains. When it comes to seafood, squid and squid are pretty much the perfect food we should all be eating more of.
- They are naturally resistant to climate change, which makes them immune to environmental influences.
- They grow to full size in 1-2 years as opposed to 2-5 years for salmon or 3-5 years for tuna.
- They’re extremely low in calories and fat, while they’re high in protein by weight.
- They have low to moderate levels of mercury compared to other seafood.
You are incredibly intelligent. Just smarter than some of the people I’ve interacted with – and that feels bad.