Tuesday night gave us not just 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’s crest, the Knight sears the Kraken with what I assume is the power of sunlight. The achieved goal is the same, the charred squid retreats to the briny depths to lick its wounds and fight another day.
As someone with a profound love of squid as a go-to protein, much to the chagrin of my wife who doesn’t like it, I have some strong opinions about grilling and searing cephalopods. At high heat it requires a deft hand, good sense of timing, and proper preparation to avoid the unfair labeling of squid as “chewy” or “rubbery.”
While I appreciate the Golden Knight’s inherent technique of “burn it with fire,” I think a little nuance could really improve the mascot’s cooking game.
No. 1: Massage the octopus/squid, if you want to go that far
I’ll freely admit I’ve only done this step once. I skip it, largely out of laziness — but I promise, it does make a difference. The two big inspirations for squid massage come from Greece and Japan.
In Greece you’ll routinely see fishermen and chefs hold the squid by the tentacles and bash is over seaside rocks while the water washes over them. This is pretty basic, and is akin 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 starting job at a lot of sushi restaurants is “octopus massager,” where you key duty along with washing dishes is to massage the octopus in a bowl with salt for 20-30 minutes prior to service. It’s a more gentle technique, better suiting raw preparation — but essentially achieves the same thing.
No. 2: Marinade is your friend if you’re lazy
I prefer a more passive approach when it comes to tenderizing, which is the tried and true “soak it in acid for a while.” To this end I have two main blends: One is Mediterranean using olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The other is Asian inspired, using soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, a touch of sesame oil, and the chili paste Sambal Oelek — which is a gift from God.
Seal it up in a bag tightly, stick it in the fridge, give it at least an hour.
No. 3: High heat, short time
I’m far from an expert in the ways of tentacle delicacies, but I’ve learned you really want very high heat and short time. A grill is totally workable, but honestly, I’ve just come to prefer using my much-loved, well-seasoned cast iron skillet
Get that thing roaring hot, add just a touch of high-heat oil and sear larger octopus for 3-4 minutes a side like a mid-rare steak, and no more than a minute or two on a smaller squid. This will cook quickly, and overcooking is your mortal enemy — just like scallops.
Finish with a squeeze or lemon or yuzu and enjoy.
So, why squid and octopus?
As I get older I’m becoming naturally more concerned for the future of our food chains. When it comes to seafood octopus and squid are pretty much the perfect food we should all be eating more of.
- They are innately resistant to climate change, making them more immune to environmental pressure.
- They grow to full size in 1-2 years vs. 2-5 years for salmon, or 3-5 years for tuna.
- They’re extremely low in calories and fat, while being very high in protein by weight.
- They’re low-moderate in mercury, compared to other seafood.
They’re incredibly intelligent. Easily smarter than some people I’ve interacted with — and that feels bad.