Squid Tutorial

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Over the years I’ve moaned and groaned about not having access to beautiful, fresh seafood, because I live in a land-locked state.

Those of you who live on the coasts, or just about anywhere in Europe, have no idea how different it is to not have a seafood market or, better yet, a personal fish monger.

As a result, I have minimal experience working with fish, outside of cleaning fresh trout when we fish in Colorado.

But I decided to put an end to my complaining, and order some seafood online from (hopefully) a reputable source. I ordered 5 pounds of frozen whole squid from a fish market in Seattle.

Fortunately it came in two 2.5 pound packages so I was able to keep one frozen and thaw the other.

Ordering squid rings would have been easier, but I couldn’t find them, and honestly, it was a good experience to learn about the creatures as I cleaned and prepared them. It made me happy, like an Italian grandma!

If you’ve never cleaned squid, you’ll enjoy this tutorial. If you have lots of experience with seafood, well then I have some expletives for you, cause I’m jealous!

There are two parts to a squid.


A body or tube, and a head with tentacles attached.

The first step is to pull the head out of the body; set the head aside. Head instructions below.

Have a large bowl of clean water on hand. I rinsed the squid 4-5 times during the cleaning process.

Remove the fins from the tail end of the squid, by just pulling them off.

Then remove the skin, by simply grabbing it and pulling on it; the skin comes off easily.

You now have a body, but there is a cartillagenous back bone. See it sticking out? It goes from neck to tail.

I used tweezers to pull out the back bone.

Next is to remove the innards of the squid bodies. Use your fingers to soften the insides, and then just squeeze them out just like you’re squeezing sausage out of its casing.

Rinse the squid well, refreshing the water a few times.

Next you must clean the head and tentacle end of the squid.

Do this by placing the head on a cutting board, and cutting right above the eye. Discard the eyeball and anything attached to it.

Using your fingers, pinch the tentacle end, and right where you sliced, and out should pop the beak of the squid. Discard those as well.

Now, you have clean squid bodies to use for stuffing, or to slice into rings, as I did.

And you also have tentacles, all ready to cook!

I especially love squid on salads.

In Nice I enjoyed fire-grilled calamari just by themselves and they were magnificent!

If you’ve never had squid, I encourage you try it. They’re not fishy. Yes, they have a texture, but they are not rubbery. If you’ve had rubbery squid, then they were overcooked, just like rubbery chicken.

Recently I made a Nigella pasta recipe using squid rings and tentacles. Try it and you’ll see how easy they are to cook!

Stéphane’s Calamari in Red Sauce

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When I first met Stéphane, it was April of 2014. My daughter and I visited him for an action-packed four days in southwestern France.

If you’re not familiar with Stéphane Gabart, he is the author of My French Heaven, the beautiful blog that emanates his love for all things food, wine, and France. You immediately grasp his passion and joie de vivre through his stunning photography.

His business, which he has secretly told me is more fun than work, is called Your French Heaven, because one can basically customize a visit. In our case, my daughter and I went mostly, not surprisingly, for the food experience.

We visited a different farmers’ market every day, so that he could cook fabulous meals for us. Can you imagine! Four farmers’ markets in close proximity to your home?!! Not to mention bakeries and patisseries!

Because my daughter is a pescatarian, we ate a lot of seafood, which was wonderful!

Of course Stéphane also had the perfect wines, champagnes, Lillet, and Sauternes.

And bread and cheese, of course.

I’d include photos of the countryside we visited, along with castles, villages, fortresses, vineyards, and even a brocante, because we did do much more than eat, but I need to keep this post about Stéphane and the calamari he prepared one evening for my daughter and I. These are photos from that visit. I’ve never had calamari quite like it.

It’s calamari rings, sautéed, flambéed, then cooked in a red sauce until the sauce is deep and rich. The sunshine beaming down on the calamari just make them glow!

Here’s the recipe, as generously emailed to me by Stéphane.

Calamari Rings in Red Sauce

Sear bacon, shallots and onions in a cast iron pot.

In another skillet, sauté the calamari in olive oil. Flambé with cognac.

You then dump your seafood in the pot and add your bouquet garni. Add 125g of tomato paste for each pound of fish.

Darken the sauce on medium heat and wet it as you go along with a big glass of white wine.

When your sauce is dark enough, you add fish stock to level. Let the whole thing boil on low heat for a good 2 hours, adding liquid as needed.

When the sauce has reduced enough, add some garlic, a pinch of paprika and some cayenne pepper.

Let it all simmer very slowly for about 15 minutes and adjust your seasoning.

Then thicken your sauce with a bit of white roux.

And voila!

I made this calamari dish for Christmas eve, served with white rice.

It was exquisite.

Merci, mon ami!

 

 

Nigella’s Pasta with Squid

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In May, my refrigerator died. I was without a refrigerator for 12 days. It was awful.

So what did we do? My husband and I went out to eat, a lot. We had to. It’s quite challenging to come up with ideas for meals when no refrigeration is available and it’s hot outside.

At first, it was fun for me, because it was a nice break from cooking. Until going out really got old.

To make things worse, I kept coming across more and more recipes that I wanted to prepare, and started to really miss cooking.

I never divulged that to my husband. Instead, I would make obnoxious comments, like “Hey, this is what most Americans do. They go out to eat! All the time.”

I guess when I think I might starve because I have no refrigerated food, pasta really appeals to me.

Specifically, there was a pasta recipe in Nigella Kitchen that got my attention.

It was simple, made with squid ring-shaped pasta, and containing squid rings!

I would have thought that no Italian would actually make such a dish, but Nigella actually had it at a restaurant along the Amalfi coast.

She does refer to the pairing as a “culinary pun,” but hey, if it’s served in Italy, she can put her recreation of it in her cookbook!

The calamari=shaped pasta I found is called Pasta di Gragnano; Gragnano is the area where Nigella had the pasta dish.

In any case, it’s now December and I’m finally getting to this recipe, which is actually good timing, because it’s totally festive! I might make it again on Christmas!

Quick Calamari Pasta
Slightly adapted

1 pound pasta, calamari-ring shape
Salt
1 pound cleaned squid, sliced, tentacles left whole
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh red chile peppers, sweet
1/2 cup vermouth
1/4 cup pasta cooking water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Handful of chopped parsley
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add the green onions for one minute, then add the garlic and red chile peppers.


Stir well.
Add the squid rings AND tentacles and cook for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the vermouth and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the squid is tender and the vermouth reduced.

Add the cooking water and butter, then add the drained pasta to the squid and stir together well.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve!

I added a little more salt, and also included some cayenne pepper.

The next time I make this, I might remove the squid and vegetables before continuing with the liquids. That way it’s insured that the squid doesn’t overcook.


Plus, I’d love to try it with a little tomato paste and cream.

But it’s a delightful recipe, and classically Italian in its simplicity.

Cuttlefish with Raspberries

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French Bistro is not your typical cookbook. In fact, it’s more of an homage to traditional bistros, with references to real people and actual Parisian establishments.

The book would be a smart read prior to a Paris visit!

Instead of typical chapters, they are organized by ten bistro “essentials”: The Owner, The Chef, The Chalkboard Menu, The Wine, The Servers, The Table, The Decor, The Clients, The Ambiance, and The Aromas.

The authors are Bertrand Auboyneau and Francois Simon, and it was published in 2012.

If you have a love for bistros in general, especially with those quintessential French elements like vintage tiles, carved wood elements, the lamps, the windows, and so forth, you will love the photographs in the book, as I did.

There are recipes in the book, and they’re all exciting to me. But alas, if I were to make food that involved sweetbreads, sardines, liver and tongue, I’d be eating it all by myself.

I decided on a cuttlefish recipe. My husband won’t eat those, either, but I only ordered one pound’s worth in order to make this recipe.

After much searching, because I was not familiar with cuttlefish were, I discovered that they are short stubby squid, called Sepia in Italian. I knew I would like them, because I have a love affair with all creatures tentacled!

Following is the actual recipe from French Bistro, somewhat modified because my cuttlefish, about 4 ounces each, were much larger than the ones pictured in the book.

Cuttlefish Sautéed with Raspberries, Verjus-Style

1 pound cuttlefish, or 3 – 4 ounce cuttlefish
4 ounces raspberries
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Vincotto
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley, optional

Rinse the cuttlefish well in water before using.

Heat up a pot of water that they will fit in to a strong simmer. Poach the cuttlefish for 5 minutes.

Remove them to paper towels and dry well. Pop out the beak in the middle of the tentacles. It will just pop out.

Mash the raspberries with a fork and set aside.

Add about half of the olive oil to a skillet and heat over high heat. Add the cuttlefish and brown just slightly. It should take about 2 minutes.

Remove them to a plate, turn down the heat a bit, and add the raspberries and remaining olive oil.

I also added about a teaspoon of vincotto for some sweetness.

To serve, place some lettuce leaves on a plate (this is completely optional) and place the cuttlefish over them.

Add the raspberry-olive oil mixture, and season with salt and pepper.

I also added a little chopped parsley.

Enjoy warm.

These were so wonderful it’s hard to describe them. And with the raspberry mixture the whole meal was just divine.

Not only was this a great dish for warm weather, it would be good with strawberries as well in the spring. I love cuttlefish!