Reaching for Octopus

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Once a leading-edge dish, this star of modern seafood starts to latch on in mainstream dining.

Octopus has gained traction on menus across the country, propelled by the modern seafood trend, which sees chefs applying flavour-forward techniques to seafood-centric shareables, snacks and more.

Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC, points out the great opportunity with octopus. “It’s extremely versatile, the price is reasonable and it offers great menu differentiation,” he says. He also notes today’s diners see it as more special than most seafood. Most consumers won’t cook it at home, which adds to its menu allure.

“And on top of that, octopus brings dramatic plate presentation, wowing with long, curled tentacles,” Ludwig says. “We also think it’s primed for handhelds, like parathas, naan and tacos.”

During a research tour, Ludwig and his team saw a tremendous amount of creative menu applications featuring octopus. He shares four ways chefs are menuing octopus with opportunity for wider menu translation.

Octopus partners with other seafood

“Octopus is really nice in seafood stews like a cioppino or bouillabaise,” Ludwig says. It adds a nice heartiness to those kind of broth-based dishes. Paella, other seafood fried rice dishes and seafood medleys over pasta also welcome octopus to the mix.

Menu Example:
Seafood Bourride with shrimp, scallops, octopus, tuna, leek, pepper, zucchini—Biff’s Bistro, Toronto

Creamy Sauces

The prevalent sauce treatments we’ve seen paired with octopus are creamy and rich, like mayonnaise, cream-based sauces or aïoli-based spreads or sauces. Compound butters and butter sauces work well with grilled octopus, highlighting the meatiness.

Menu Example:
Octopus a la Gallega: Olive oil poached octopus, potatoes, aïoli, Espelette, paprika—Bocata, Montreal

Bean purées

Another treatment was bean purée. “Chefs are making a flavourful bean-based purée and using it as base sauce for the octopus,” Ludwig says. It’s fueled by the veg-centric movement and the interest in Mediterranean flavours.

Menu Examples:
Grilled Za’atar-spiced Octopus served with baba ganoush, hummus and labneh, finished with pomegranate seeds—Tuck Shop, Montréal
Braised Octopus with grilled pineapple, squid ink bean purée, harissa sauce, mix greens—Blu Ristorante, Toronto

Boldly flavoured meat pairings

We found octopus marries well with boldly flavoured meats, linguiça, hams, smoked sausage—any meat with an assertive profile. It’s a classic pairing in Spanish cuisine. Chefs are taking that flavour and texture combination and deepening the umami.

Menu Examples:
Grilled Octopus with farro salad, cherry tomatoes, chimichurri, fennel salami—Terroir Kitchen, Vancouver
Grilled Octopus with glazed pork belly, parsnip purée, apple and kale salad, crispy lentils—Rasa, Toronto
Red wine-braised octopus with smoked pork belly, charred eggplant, fennel—L’Abattoir, Vancouver

Culinary Tips

Ludwig and the Gordon Food Service culinary team have developed this method to create tender, flavourful octopus:

  • Use flavourful braising liquids that won’t overpower the octopus, such as seafood stock with a mix of mirepoix, aromatics, and red wine or sherry vinegar
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, dip tentacles so they seize up and curl, then turn to simmer and put tentacles in
  • Slow-simmer the octopus, testing it with a fork for doneness; when you can pierce the skin without getting a grab, it’s done (don’t overcook, or the suckers will come right off)
  • Grill or pan-sear cooked octopus until nicely charred and crispy

Learn More

Ask your Sales Representative about our recipes for both flavour-forward octopus dishes and product information on our frozen whole octopus product.

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