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David Ross

Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus

150 posts in this topic

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.

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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?

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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?


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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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

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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-

049.JPG

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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-

070.JPG

Here are two more links that talk about the theories behind how vinegar (acid)

tenderizes seafood:

http://kitchenscience.sci-toys.com/acids

http://ph.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100627015248AAObuPQ

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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:


Good food is a lifestyle, and it's all about food and recipes.

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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 :)

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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.

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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?

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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.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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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.

Indeed, something tart sounds the most suitable. I was thinking about rhubarb, which allegedly you can cook sous-vide resulting in an visually attractive dish.

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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.

Indeed, something tart sounds the most suitable. I was thinking about rhubarb, which allegedly you can cook sous-vide resulting in an visually attractive dish.

That could be interesting, but I'm trying to think of the textures. Would soft rhubarb stand up to the texture of octopus? I suppose you could use the rhubarb as a sauce. And I wonder how the tart flavor would work with the octopus. If anyone has tried this I'd like to see your results.

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I'm reposting this from the dinner thread (this link).

Calamari stuffed with Chorizo. Cooked sous vide for three hours at 59C. Chilled in ice bath. Reheated following day and then seared on all sides in a hot frypan.

Chorizo stuffed calamari.jpg


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog

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I'm reposting this from the dinner thread (this link).

Calamari stuffed with Chorizo. Cooked sous vide for three hours at 59C. Chilled in ice bath. Reheated following day and then seared on all sides in a hot frypan.

attachicon.gifChorizo stuffed calamari.jpg

Looks delicious. Do you think the sous vide helped tenderize the calamari?

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I'm reposting this from the dinner thread (this link).

Calamari stuffed with Chorizo. Cooked sous vide for three hours at 59C. Chilled in ice bath. Reheated following day and then seared on all sides in a hot frypan.

attachicon.gifChorizo stuffed calamari.jpg

Looks delicious. Do you think the sous vide helped tenderize the calamari?

It works well to tenderise it.

I'm going to do up some marinated calamari soon and plan on cooking the rings sous vide before adding the marinade.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog

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this is kind of timely, I just today thought of an octopus I have in the freezer, and recently read about cooking them Sous Vide! I'm sure I ate octopus sometime somewhere, but honestly can't remember, I don't go out to eat much (big part of fun with food to me is making it, if I go out I pay somebody else to have fun, no fair! ;-)

Anybody got a great recipe/technique to share for a whole octopus cooked SV and then - don't know a quick fry, bbq, nothing? Was an impulse buy at the farmers market fish monger last year. Vac sealed and frozen that day, I'm sure it's just fine. Ready to play with it!


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.

I'm just keepin' it real.

A pastry bag works well.

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After the abysmal failure with the horrific grilled octopus salad, I thought I'd bring it back home for the next dish using a technique I'm fairly good at--deep-frying.

As I mentioned in one of my opening posts, we often associate deep-fried calamari as a staple of bar menus--poor renditions of pre-breaded, frozen bits whose primary asset is that it's deep-fried in fat. It's crunchy, greasy and basically bereft of any seafood flavor--and people can't get enough of the stuff.

For my deep-fried calamari I used the whole squid I got at the fishmonger. (As I mentioned earlier, I try to avoid the pre-cleaned, pre-cut, frozen calamari at the supermarket. In the case of calamari, I've found convenience doesn't result in a flavorful dish).

I use a three-step breading process for most deep-frying--flour, liquid, flour. But I change-up the liquid and third "dip" in the flour depending on what I'm deep-frying.

In this case, the first dip was to coat the squid rings and tentacles in all-purpose flour. No seasoning in dip #1, just flour.

For dip #2, I used evaporated milk. It has a thicker consistency than whole milk and a touch of sweetness. After dip #1 in flour, the squid goes into dip #2, creating the "glue" for the final dip #3, another dry coating.

Dip #3 was a blend of 1 cup of potato flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch and a tablespoon of Old Bay. I use potato flour for a lot of deep-fried seafood. It gives the seafood a classic potato flavor and the fine mill of the flour lends a lighter crunch than all-purpose flour. The cornstarch also adds crunch and of course, Old Bay gives the classic fish fry flavor.

It's a bit of a messy process because you have to constantly keep sifting the pieces so they don't stick together. A very large mesh basket helps with sifting the pieces of squid. Then once the three dips are completed, I put the calamari into my deep-fryer filled with canola oil heated to 350. It takes about 2 minutes of deep-frying for it to get golden and crispy. It turned out very tender and the flavor of the squid really came through. It wasn't just a mass of fried flour bits.

I served the calamari simply with a dash of salt, pepper and lemon juice. No sauce.

014.JPG

I've also used this method for deep-fried salt and pepper squid. I omit the Old Bay in the flour mixture in dip #3 and substitute a good dose of salt, black pepper and just a small hint of ground Szechuan peppercorns for a bit more spice and aroma.

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The chickpeas have been soaking overnight and tonight I'll be using them in a dish where squid is more of a side element rather than the main star of a dish. Not deep-fried this time but flash-fried in a hot skillet paired with a sauce made from the beans and a seared fish filet.

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My next squid dish was an adaptation of a recipe from Chef Alain Ducasse's "Flavors of France," Fillet of Cod with White Bean Puree and Baby Squid.

I've made this dish many times in the past and for the Cook-Off I wanted to show how squid can be an accompaniment in a seafood dish. The cooking of this dish actually started last week, but I wasn't totally satisfied with the results. Over the course of the past week I made some changes to the recipe and made a second attempt tonight.

The recipe calls for using dried Great Northern beans, soaked overnight, then cooked the next day for 1 ½ hours with celery, carrot, onion and garlic. After the beans are cooked they are steeped in olive oil, rosemary, sage and some of the bean cooking liquid. Then the herbs and vegetables are taken out and the beans are pureed and passed through a sieve, leaving you with a silky bean puree.

On the first attempt I used canned cannellini beans rather than start with dried beans. I didn't follow the Ducasse recipe exactly in terms of cooking the beans since they were canned, and I put chopped herbs into the bean puree rather than letting them steep in the beans. After processing the beans I used them "rustic" rather than passing them through a sieve for a smoother puree.

The beans were fairly bland and the thick puree wasnt very photogenic. Ducasse calls for adding a touch of sherry vinegar to the beans, but I substituted red wine vinegar. Not a great alternate because red wine vinegar doesnt have the depth of flavor that sherry vinegar has.

Instead of cod I used sea scallops, thinking the rich, buttery flavor would work well with the bean sauce. The scallops were too rich and buttery for the mild squid and the scallops over-powered the delicate bean puree. Taking a cue from an earlier post, I sautéed some dry Spanish chorizo to make a chorizo oil. The thought was to add a bit of smokiness and color to the dish. While I think chorizo oil can work incredibly well when paired with seafood, in this case, the smoke didnt balance with the beans, the acid of the vinegar, the chew of the squid and the rich flavor of the scallops. It was a dish with good intentions and some separate elements that were quite good, but it just didnt come together as one.

Seared Sea Scallop with White Bean Puree and Baby Squid-

016.JPG

Now on to the second attempt.........

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For the second version of Ducasse's dish, I made some big changes-

Sometimes I do the dish with cod and in the past I did it with Chilean Sea Bass. I don't buy Chilean Sea Bass any longer due to sustainability issues, and I really didn't want to use cod. A bit boring I thought. Then on a lark I stopped at Trader Joe's and I found this elusive fish in the freezer case:

011.JPG

In the Northwest we regard "Black Cod" as highly as the mighty salmon, dungeness and king crabs. The chi-chi name is "sablefish," but whatever you call it is a superior fish--oily, firm flesh and lends itself to a variety of cooking methods. I typically smoke it and serve it in a shallow dish with an Asian soup. Black Cod is also delicious marinated in Alaskan Brewing smoked porter and then slowly braised and served with steamed bok choy. Although it was frozen, I couldn't thank Trader Joe's enough. It's rare that we see black cod fresh even when it's in season.

020.JPG

Instead of going with Great Northern beans this time I used dried garbanzo beans. We always called them garbanzo's when I was a kid, but I suppose that "chickpea" sounds a little more contemporary. My thinking was that garbanzo's would be more flavorful than Great Northern beans, (certainly more flavorful than canned), and I'd still be within the French-Medittereanean theme of the Ducasse dish. I considered the flavor of the beans to be more compatible with the black cod and squid.

The beans take time, starting with a soak overnight in water. Then on day two you cook the beans for 1 1/2 hours in a pot of water, carrot, onion, celery and unpeeled garlic cloves. Once the beans are tender, step three calls for steeping herbs in the beans off the heat. You don't drain the beans or remove the vegetables at this point, just add the herbs and some olive oil and let it sit off the heat about an hour. The beans pick up just a whisper of the scent of the herbs. Step four calls for processing the beans into a paste and adding only the bean water to thin the sauce. Then the fifth step is to pass the rough puree through a fine sieve. Finally, just before service you heat up the bean puree and season and add a dash of olive oil. I reserved some of the whole garbanzo beans for the garnish. I followed the steps in the recipe fairly strictly this time and the results were evident--a smooth, silky bean puree with pure flavor, (not the diluted flavor of canned beans).

The recipe calls for adding a dash of sherry wine vinegar to the bean puree, but this time I took a turn and made a syrup from this wonderful product-

008.JPG

Since I wasn't adding the tang of vinegar to the beans, my intention was to use the blood orange balsamic as a garnish but provide the sour boost of vinegar to cut the rich bean sauce and the oil in the black cod. I didn't want to just swig runny vinegar on the fish and the squid, so I reduced it into a syrup, a technique I often use to reduce the acid of the vinegar and bring out the sweetness. The reduced sweet and sour syrup had notes of orange and citrus which married beautifully to the richer elements of the dish.

The squid was flash-fried in a hot pan in olive oil for no more than 20 seconds, then tossed in fresh lemon juice. In this dish, the squid adds texture and flavor while staying within the theme of "seafood," and letting the black cod take the centerstage.

Although it took a week and the dish underwent some major changes, it was worth the time. Clams could work as the garnish to the black cod, maybe mussels, possibly oysters. But those creatures don't have the texture, delicate flavor and stunning presentation showed by squid.

Sablefish with Seared Squid, Chickpea Puree and Blood Orange Balsamic Syrup-

021.JPG

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