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!