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Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus

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#31 David Ross

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 04:31 PM

Before I started cooking I did a comparison between pre-cleaned frozen squid from the supermarket and whole frozen squid from my fishmonger. 

 

The pre-cleaned squid was farm-raised in Vietnam.  It sold for 3.99 for 12oz. I didn't get a photo of the packaging, but the tentacles were separated from the bodies and packed into a separate compartment in the box.  These squid were really tiny, which I found was not as desirable as larger squid due to the shrinkage that takes place during cooking-

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I bought a 3lb. box of frozen whole squid from the fishmonger.  It was slightly cheaper than the pre-cleaned squid from the supermarket. They're from a California company-

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The whole squid were about twice the size of the pre-cleaned squid, but certainly not as convenient.  I've cleaned a lot of squid so I don't mind the time it takes to cut the tentacles off the head, pull the skin layer of the body, pull out the innards and then pull out the quill. If you're a novice at cleaning squid, the box has clear instructions. 

 

The uncleaned whole squid-

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And the cleaned squid with tentacles, and bodies cut into thick rings-

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Whenever I buy the pre-cleaned stuff I'm disappointed.  It's puny and doesn't have much flavor.  One wonders how long it's been sitting in the freezer case at Safeway.  The whole squid always taste fresher, (albeit they've been frozen), and the size advantage makes a difference in the end result of my cooked dishes.



#32 David Ross

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 04:34 PM

One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

 

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish?  Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

 

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece.  I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking.  One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.



#33 Shelby

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 04:42 PM

One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

 

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish?  Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

 

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece.  I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking.  One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.

 

 

One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

 

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish?  Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

 

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece.  I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking.  One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.

Ok, that's what I'll do then, thanks!



#34 lstrelau

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 04:46 PM

One of or local fishmongers has had a fresh, whole octopus in their showcase every weekend. Arranged artistically on the bed of ice in the cooler. (Not the same one -they assure me !! :rolleyes: ) They seem to sell one a week. While I like eating octopus the reality of dealing with the whole critter intimidates me.

Any tips should I be brave?

 

Best octopus I have ever eaten was in Mexico, Guaymas, middle Baja. Either a whole or half octopus (cut up) depending on the size, marinated in adobo I think and then grilled over charcoal - lovely almost burned edges. Fork tender (probably frozen then thawed and cooked unless someone spent an hour beating them on the pavement). Served with peppers and grilled onions.


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#35 edsel

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 05:01 PM

Brilliant topic. Octopus is one of my favourite uses of sous vide.

 

I picked up some baby octopus at the market this morning. Any thoughts on SV temps and times?



#36 StanSherman

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 05:28 PM

Some of the nicest squid I ever got were in San Pedro, Ca. The season starts pretty soon.  They are the absolute best bait for line caught swordfish. They need to be larger to fit glow sticks for night fishing. 



#37 Shelby

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 05:36 PM

Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.  

 

I'm just keepin' it real.



#38 liuzhou

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 06:07 PM

David Ross : 

 

Do you always use fresh squid?

 

Yes



#39 David Ross

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 06:15 PM

Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.  

 

I'm just keepin' it real.

You need 4 Italian Grandmothers around the table helping stuff those devils. :rolleyes:



#40 Shelby

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 07:28 PM

Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.  

 

I'm just keepin' it real.

You need 4 Italian Grandmothers around the table helping stuff those devils. :rolleyes:

YES!

 

Ok, so I have a huge, nice salad made (as nice as it can be for winter in Kansas), pasta water is on, homemade sauce with meatballs is stewing and the stuffed calamari is simmering in sauce.  

 

I told my husband he could go ahead and eat once the pasta is done.  He responded by telling me the more wine he has, the more he may be able to eat the stuffed calamari.

 

Sigh.



#41 Shelby

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 09:48 AM

Here's dinner last night. It was pretty good. Very tender. My husband just does not like squid, though.

I have about 1/2 a pound left so I'm going to do a more , shall we say, plain version.

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ImageUploadedByTapatalk1362934009.005752.jpg

#42 dcarch

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 01:39 PM

Anyone else likes eating squid insides? 

 

dcarch

 

squid_zpsf82333c8.jpg

 

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#43 David Ross

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 03:09 PM

Here's dinner last night. It was pretty good. Very tender. My husband just does not like squid, though.

I have about 1/2 a pound left so I'm going to do a more , shall we say, plain version.

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933797.475142.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933894.541777.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933985.865377.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362934009.005752.jpg

Looks delicious.



#44 David Ross

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 04:34 PM

I’ve cooked with squid for years, but in really simple dishes like fish stews, deep-fried or as a garnish for other seafood.  This was my first attempt using octopus as the main star of a dish.  I went into it with trepidation, but in the end, I was very surprised.

 

I bought these frozen, pre-cleaned, baby octopus from my fishmonger.  They’re not labeled or pre-packaged, so I think he gets them in fresh in bulk and then bags them and freezes them at the store.  I’ll ask him about the source next time I’m in-

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The dish is a combination of recipes—my own tomato sauce, (taken from the Time-Life series Foods of the World-The Cooking of Italy), and Mario Batali’s recipe for “Squid from Santa Lucia’s Port, (Calamari all Luciana).  I chose baby octopus rather than squid and I selected bucatini pasta because I wanted something in the shape of spaghetti, yet heavy enough in texture to stand up to a thick and spicy tomato sauce.

 

I intentionally chose a recipe that called for using a “cork” to soften the octopus. I wanted to see if the old wives tale was true—that cork has natural properties that tenderizes octopus.  The recipe calls for boiling the octopus in water with a good dose of red wine vinegar.  I suspect that’s the scientific proof, not the cork.  The acid element in vinegar is most likely what tenderizes the octopus.  (At least it made me feel like I was following some sort of authentic method).

 

The first part of the recipe sounds scary-“simmer the octopus for 50-60 minutes until tender.” 

 

Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

The Octopus-

2 pounds baby octopus, cleaned, tentacles cut off body and bodies cut into 1/2” wide rings

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 used wine corks

 

Fill a large deep pot with water. Add the vinegar, and the wine corks and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and add the octopus. Cook the octopus for 50 minutes. Drain the octopus from the water and allow to cool. At this point you can refrigerate the octopus in a covered dish until ready for service.

 

After nearly an hour in a hot water bath-

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Some of the sauce ingredients and the dried Italian bucatini-

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Tomato Sauce, Day One-

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 cups canned, diced, San Marzano tomatoes

3 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. minced fresh basil

1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano

1 tsp. sugar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan.  Add the onions and cook until the onions are soft yet not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, sugar and salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the saucepan.  Cook the sauce for 1 hour.

 

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree.  The sauce can be kept covered and refrigerated.  At this point I kept the octopus in the refrigerator overnight.  I had no clue as to whether it was going to be soft and tender or bounce like a super ball.

 

Tomato Sauce, Day Two-

4 tbsp. olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried red chile flakes

2 cups tomato sauce

½ cup dry white wine

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

 

On the day you’re ready to use the sauce, heat a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and once it’s warmed, add the garlic and the chile flakes and cook until the garlic just starts to turn brown.  Don’t let the garlic burn.  Add the tomato sauce, the wine, and the pre-cooked octopus.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the sauce, uncovered, for another 30 minutes. 

 

And the octopus braising in the pot for 30 minutes-

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While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Add the dried bucatini pasta and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  (I happen to prefer soft pasta to ‘al dente.’)

 

Drain the bucatini, reserving some of the pasta water.  Turn the bucatini into the octopus in tomato sauce and toss to combine.  (You can add pasta water to thin the sauce at this point).  Stir the pasta and sauce into a serving dish, garnish with some of the octopus and chopped Italian parsley.

 

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

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The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam.  The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus.  A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish.  The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice.  But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.



#45 David Ross

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 06:50 PM

I posted the photo of the octopus dish on my Facebook page and none other than Mauro Maccioni chimed in and mentioned that small octopus are called "moscardini" in Italy.  I think I'll file this recipe in a special place.

 

For my next dish I'm going West of Italy to the French Mediterranean for a dish of squid, sea scallop, cannelini beans and chorizo oil.  It's based on a dish from Ducasse and the idea of using chorizo as a flavor element comes from Member ninagluck.  I hope it turns out as delicious as the octopus.



#46 Mjx

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 01:17 AM

. . . .

 

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

attachicon.gif036.JPG

 

The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam.  The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus.  A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish.  The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice.  But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.

 

That is so lovely, and somehow baroque-looking! Regarding the thickness of the pasta, I'm wondering whether relatively thin, but rough-surfaced tagliatelle would work with this.


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#47 David Ross

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 04:19 AM

. . . .

 

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

attachicon.gif036.JPG

 

The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam.  The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus.  A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish.  The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice.  But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.

 

That is so lovely, and somehow baroque-looking! Regarding the thickness of the pasta, I'm wondering whether relatively thin, but rough-surfaced tagliatelle would work with this.

I might try that.  I think any thin pasta like angel hair would be way too fine.  I have a brand of thick spaghetti that would work well--thicker than regular spaghetti but not as thick as bucatini.  I like the idea of tagliatelle so I'll do some shopping this week.  Thanks for the idea.



#48 rotuts

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 05:19 AM

love this topic.   still looking forward to the 'cork' issues and why they are used.  tradition?



#49 David Ross

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 04:06 PM

I wish I had read this New York Times piece before I started cooking my octopus dish. (http://www.nytimes.c...rious.html?_r=0) There are some good scientific facts here that debunk the cork myth, including a point that freezing the octopus or squid basically tenderizes the flesh.  I sort of fumbled into my dish, but it worked--a slow simmer in water and vinegar to start, then a second braise in the tomato sauce.  Unknowingly, I was basically breaking down the fibers in the tissue and I found my final dish to have very tender octopus.  But I figured correctly when I assumed following a Batali recipe would produce good results.  I'm talking octopus here.  For my next dish I'm going to use squid and will only be cooking them for about 15 seconds in a hot saute pan so no beating, vinegar or wine corks will be used.



#50 rotuts

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 05:25 PM

nice article.  but as I read it he didn't try freezing:

 

 

Modern writers generally claim that freezing does the same thing, and therefore frozen octopus is actually preferable to fresh.

But freezing is known to worsen fibrousness in cod and other fish, and I had a hunch that it might in octopus, too. “

I take it that McGee thought

“Blanch the unbrined octopus arms for 30 seconds in boiling water, cook them in a covered dry pan in a 200-degree oven for four or five hours or until tender, and cool them slowly in their own juices. Pour off the juices and boil them down to concentrate them. You get tender octopus and a flavorful, colorful, gelatinous sauce. (Brining makes the sauce too salty.)”

Was best.

is this your take?



#51 David Ross

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 05:37 PM

nice article.  but as I read it he didn't try freezing:

 

 

Modern writers generally claim that freezing does the same thing, and therefore frozen octopus is actually preferable to fresh.

But freezing is known to worsen fibrousness in cod and other fish, and I had a hunch that it might in octopus, too. “

I take it that McGee thought

“Blanch the unbrined octopus arms for 30 seconds in boiling water, cook them in a covered dry pan in a 200-degree oven for four or five hours or until tender, and cool them slowly in their own juices. Pour off the juices and boil them down to concentrate them. You get tender octopus and a flavorful, colorful, gelatinous sauce. (Brining makes the sauce too salty.)”

Was best.

is this your take?

Yep, that's the thought I took away from the article.  I think that's too much trouble.  I simmered the baby octopus for about 45 minutes.  I used a heavy, deep stockpot filled with about a gallon of water and 3 tbsp. vinegar.  Not a large concentration of vinegar but it worked.  I let them cool overnight in the fridge and then into the tomato sauce the next day to braise about 30 minutes.  I think the simmer-cool-braise three-step method will work just fine and it's so easy.



#52 David Ross

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 05:10 AM

Has anyone had experience with grilling octopus?  I'm wondering if you need to pre-cook the octopus in a water/vinegar bath to soften it, then quickly grill it over high heat?  Or would you cut up large pieces of the octopus and put it directly on the grill without tenderizing it first? 



#53 Mjx

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 05:19 AM

Has anyone had experience with grilling octopus?  I'm wondering if you need to pre-cook the octopus in a water/vinegar bath to soften it, then quickly grill it over high heat?  Or would you cut up large pieces of the octopus and put it directly on the grill without tenderizing it first? 

 

I'm not getting the 'vinegar to soften' thing; generally, to tenderize something, it goes in a mildly basic solution, since acids tend to have to have an opposite effect (although they can break down meat surfaces and turn them mushy). How is this working out, compared to soaking it in a non-acidic bath?


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#54 jmolinari

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 05:50 AM

I don't usually write in cook-offs, but i happen to have a disk that's appropriate i made recently.

 

Baby octos in tomato sauce with squid ink spaghetti. The octos are briefly cooked in a dry lidded pot to get some of their purple moisture out. The heads are then stuffed with parsley and garlic and a tomato sauce is made with them in it.

 

photo.JPG



#55 David Ross

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 03:07 PM

From what I've found, the acid in the vinegar helps break down the collagen in squid and octopus. Now I'm far from having any type of scientific background,(I was an art history major in college), so I have to rely on the kitchen chemists for factual proof that this vinegar theory works. I've done three batches of baby octopus using vinegar in the water bath and each time the octopus turned out very tender.

But my attempt at using a large, whole octopus failed miserably. I put it in a hot salt water bath with two corks,(but unintentionally forgot the vinegar). I chilled the octopus and the next day cut it into large pieces and grilled them. I put together this picture-perfect salad of grilled octopus with green olives, preserved lemon, lemon juice, orange juice, Greek olive oil and fresh oregano. It was a disaster. At first I was too embarassed to post a deceptive photo of a dish that tasted like show leather. (In the moment I thought of Charlie Chaplin eating a boot in the Gold Rush). I couldn't figure out what went wrong.....and then I realized I hadn't put vinegar into the boiling water like I did with the baby octopus dish. So, in my unscientific kitchen I've found vinegar in the water results in tender octopus.

A beautiful creature that met an untimely fate-
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The makings of a horrific dish-
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When the most flavorful component of a dish is the olive oil, (and it's supposed to be an octopus dish), you're in trouble-
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Here are two more links that talk about the theories behind how vinegar (acid)
tenderizes seafood:
http://kitchenscienc...-toys.com/acids

http://ph.answers.ya...27015248AAObuPQ

#56 pangty

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 06:53 AM

For squid and calamari, stir fry, grill, coated with batter and deep fry, cook soup, all are really nice. But personally I like grill and deep fry. For the octopus, you have to ask Korean. They love octopus. I always see from TV show that they eat it live and raw. But I really don’t have guts to try eating a living octopus. :raz:


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#57 Shelby

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 08:10 AM

David, I'm sorry your dish didn't work, but it sure is a pretty octopus.  They sure do shrink up a bunch!  Frankly, I really appreciate you posting when something doesn't work out quite right.....because I sure have a lot of failures, too, and that makes me feel better :)



#58 David Ross

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 05:02 PM

David, I'm sorry your dish didn't work, but it sure is a pretty octopus.  They sure do shrink up a bunch!  Frankly, I really appreciate you posting when something doesn't work out quite right.....because I sure have a lot of failures, too, and that makes me feel better :)

Thanks. Cooks aren't being honest with themselves if they don't celebrate their failures as much as their great dishes. They way I figure it, we have to be transparent and admit we muffed a dish--then ask for advice on how we can make it better next time. And passionate cooks like us are the type of people who barely get the dishes cleaned before we're back at planning the shopping list to make that dish better the next time.

#59 David Ross

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 05:05 PM

I'm working on my next dish and I've been thinking about how challenging it is to pair the right ingredients and garnishes with an ingredient like octopus and squid. The issue of texture is certainly at the forefront, and since the flavors are somewhat mild compared to say salmon or mackerel, I think you have to take extra care when you create your own dish from scratch.

So getting more specific, what types of vegetables would you pair with squid or octopus? Do you think fruit would ever work?

#60 Mjx

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 11:12 PM

I'm working on my next dish and I've been thinking about how challenging it is to pair the right ingredients and garnishes with an ingredient like octopus and squid. The issue of texture is certainly at the forefront, and since the flavors are somewhat mild compared to say salmon or mackerel, I think you have to take extra care when you create your own dish from scratch.

So getting more specific, what types of vegetables would you pair with squid or octopus? Do you think fruit would ever work?

 

Something tart, like not-over-ripe mango or pineapple, or citrus would probably be good, and not too overwhelming. Tomatoes, too (if you're willing to regard them as fruit), although you've already been there.


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