Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
August 13, 2019

Thanks to a rising tide of seafood innovation, chefs today are adding craveable, casual and creative seafood-centric dishes to their menus—from bar bites, snacks and shareables to tacos, sandwiches, flatbreads and bowls. Answering that diner demand for flavor-forward seafood dishes is a growing imperative, and sourcing seafood that provides back-of-house efficiencies while fitting into a number of trending profiles is a tall order. Surimi seafood answers those needs.

Made from wild Alaska Pollock and real crab, Trident’s SEA LEGS brand of surimi offers a clean label—limited ingredients, gluten-free, all natural and non-GMO. It also stars the most abundant certified-sustainable wild fish in the world, wild Alaska Pollock.

To help showcase surimi’s versatility and potential for creative menu development, Trident Seafoods, in partnership with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), invited CIA students to submit their most innovative surimi creations to a recipe competition aptly titled, Surimi Smackdown. The entries were creative, flavor-forward, and wide-ranging, demonstrating how easily surimi works in a number of trending applications.

Food Network’s Nancy Fuller, judge on both the “Holiday Baking Championship” and “Spring Baking Championship,” and star of the popular cooking show “Farmhouse Rules,” served as a judge for the surimi competition.

“I was so impressed with our future chefs from the CIA. Their innovative recipes were so delicious, creative and festive – a ‘delight-fuller’ competition indeed!” says Fuller. “These young chefs took this gluten-free, no GMO, all-natural wild Alaska Pollock to a whole new level—packed with protein, omegas and flavor.”

David Kamen, assistant director of CIA Consulting, says that the mild “ocean-y” flavor and firm texture of surimi made it a great innovation platform for culinary students. “Our students battered and fried it, folded it into a number of fillings and toppings, and, in some cases, served it chilled,” he says. “On a restaurant menu, surimi is interesting enough to be a feature on an appetizer or small plate menu, but also mild enough to be a component of an entrée.” Its menu potential is impressive. “Surimi can provide a safe vector for restaurant patrons to try new dishes and flavors based on a familiar main ingredient,” says Kamen.

Taking top prize in the Surimi Smackdown, Sea Nami Rustic Flatbread relies on surimi for its firm bite and clean flavor, making it an ideal topper. Student Alych Padró played up Asian flavors in a creative way, infusing the flatbread’s dough with nori, adding surimi, then building more flavor with wasabi sauce, feta and shaved garlic, along with a bright finish of escabeche, cilantro sauce, nigella seeds and cilantro.

Ivan Minuet took second prize with his Zesty Citrus Seafood Bruschetta, a clever rendition of a modern toast. The highlight here is the crispy surimi salad—he seared the surimi, chilled it, then tossed it with a house-made citrus-heavy mayonnaise.

A savory Seafood Panna Cotta took third place, showcasing how surimi works as an elegant topper on creative shareables. Jenna Thompson made a Greek yogurt panna cotta, adding a fresh, bright surimi salad overtop, made with lemon zest, scallions, red pepper, cucumber, cayenne, salt, paprika and garlic powder.

Surimi Advantage

Most Americans know surimi as a central ingredient in California rolls and crab salad, but it is now poised to move further into menu development. Helping to raise consumer awareness about its nutritional benefits (a great source of protein, low fat and low calorie) and its wider application uses, surimi will have a larger presence on K-12 menus as it has been approved by the USDA as a “meat equivalent.”

From an operational standpoint, surimi serves up a number of significant advantages. Surimi is a fully-cooked and pasteurized fish protein, which not only helps immensely with food safety, but also dials up its ease of usage. Working on both hot and cold menu items, it boasts great versatility. And of course, surimi’s value helps operator deliver on-trend seafood items at a lower cost.

The biggest advantage to Trident’s surimi seafood is that it stars wild Alaska Pollock. A member of the cod family with a similar flavor, texture, and appearance, pollock is an extra-lean protein with a compelling story of sustainability behind it. That sourcing narrative is particularly important to diners today, so calling out surimi’s clean, sustainable profile helps position it as a modern, responsible menu choice.

Surimi Smackdown Winners

1. Seanami Rustic Flatbread — nori-infused flatbread with wasabi sauce, feta, garlic and surimi, then finishes it with escabeche, cilantro sauce, nigella seeds and cilantro

2. Zesty Citrus Seafood Bruschetta — garlic toast topped with crispy surimi salad and finished with shaved egg yolk and microgreens

3. Seafood Panna Cotta — chive-Parmesan cookie topped with savory panna cotta, surimi salad, fried avocado and microgreens

For more usage ideas on surimi, visit Trident Seafoods.

Best of Flavor 2019 cover

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