Seafood is one of those protein items that is seen as both indulgent and satisfying, while still maintaining it’s health halo. The reason? Most seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are lauded for their cholesterol-regulating benefits, but it’s intimidating for the average at-home chef to tackle, making it a treat experienced mostly by eating out.
With the holidays right around the corner, customers will be looking to treat themselves even more than usual, likely bringing friends and family along for the festivities. This presents a unique opportunity to satisfy their taste for something a little more celebratory by menuing craveable seafood options. We’re not talking your average fish and chips or shrimp scampi. For the holidays, guests will expect elevated offerings. Here’s some ideas to help you deliver, based on what’s currently trending.
“Without a doubt the hottest concept we have seen emerge in the past year has been Poké,” says Gordon Food Service Corporate Executive Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. A fact Technomic confirms, citing a 5.8% increase of Poké on restaurant menus in the second quarter of 2016. The Hawaiian answer to sashimi, the fish is chopped, quickly tossed in soy- or mayonnaise-based sauce and served in a number of ways, including topped with nuts or in a bowl with rice. The key is not to marinate it too long, overload it with additional ingredients or bury it under a bunch of toppings. Keep it simple and let the flavor of the seafood serve as the main event.
Try it on your menu with our Tuna Poké recipe.
Outside of sushi bars, octopus may seem a little edgier in concept, but it’s really not. Considered mainstream in most major cities, it’s likely to gain popularity everywhere else, says Ludwig. Why? It offers huge flavor potential, bringing with it plenty of opportunity for variety. Try char-grilling it, which enhances it’s steak-like texture, which is key to it’s popularity.
Say hot oysters and most people think oysters rockefeller, but this trend far exceeds that standard dish. Flavor-forward and creative options are popular, with cooking methods including baking, broiling and char-grilling. The desire for shared plates is partially what’s driving this trend, explains Ludwig, which makes hot oysters a prime option for the holidays. The other driver is that Americans see oysters as an affordable luxury, one you can easily grant them this time of year.
Fish topped with crab
Taking it’s cue from the meat-on-meat trend and evolved surf ‘n turf offerings, crab is now appearing on top of fish. A major seafood chain is topping salmon fillets with crab and we’re seeing restaurants follow suit, similarly topping redfish, tilapia and ahi tuna. Crab counters the lightness of these fillets with a richness, which is exactly what diners will be looking for during the holidays and beyond.
Grounded in globalization and the spread of ethnic flavors, chimichurri is moving from it’s traditional chicken or beef pairing to flavor the likes of shrimp quesadillas and tacos. This new use for the popular Argentinian sauce is especially popular among millennials, 56% of whom said they’d like to see more ethnic seafood dishes on restaurants menus. Consider a dish like this a present just for them.
Technomic reports an 8.1% increase in fish belly dishes over the past three years, a rise likely spurred by the popularity of pork belly. The good news for operators like you is that there are plenty of ways to menu it—from salmon to swordfish to trout—and it’s a less expensive part of the fish. It’s a great way to introduce to seafood to your menu and your guests, or update and round out your existing offerings.
Redfish sales are red hot, having jumped 16.7% in the second quarter of 2016. Well known down south, this swimmer could be as popular as Chilean sea bass in the not too distant future. Get ahead of this trend now—try it for the holidays by serving it wood-grilled or blackened to impart subtle flavor that will impress your customers on their first bite and have them coming back for more.
Overall, these examples show restaurants experimenting with seafood in new and exciting ways, playing with different types of fish, different parts and non-traditional cooking methods. Try some of these on your menu this holiday season and you could be giving your customers exactly what they wished for.