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Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus


David Ross
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Welcome to the 2013 kick-off of our popular eG Cook-Off Series. In 2012, our Cook-Offs ran the gamut from “Hash,” to “Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish,” onto “Banh Mi” and ending the 2012 season with a discussion of “Gels, Jell-O, Aspic.” (Click here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/143994-egullet-recipe-cook-off-index/ for the complet eG Cook-Off Index).

I made a personal discovery during our “Gels, Jell-O, Aspic” Cook-off. I found a little metal Jell-O mold on a dark, back shelf in a kitchen cupboard. That little mold led to a cherished family memory and became the vessel that would hold one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever crafted. (Click here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/143597-cook-off-61-gels-jell-o-and-aspic/ to read about the delicious jiggly dishes we created).

Today we’re going to venture into the depths of a discussion about a sea-dweller that is so scary looking to some they refuse to eat the delicious little devils. The horrors of being presented with a steaming bowl of soup with little appendages peeking out.

Join in and let’s put forth our very best “Squid, Calamari and Octopus” dishes. Knowing your passion for cuisine, I don’t expect to see squid rings coated in gummy batter and deep-fried to the point that they bounce on the floor like a rubber ball. No, I’m guessing we’ll plate some fabulous dishes that showcase the versatility of these unique creatures.

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In my understanding, "calamari" is simply Italian for the plural of "squid," although in the US it's become pretty much synonymous with the deep-fried (or sometime pan-fried) version. In your last paragraph, I assume you intended those two words to mean different things. Could you tell us what those are?

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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You are correct that in America we often use calamari and squid as interchangeable words to describe the same thing. I see it as the same discussion we find with the terms shrimp, prawns and tiger prawns. The same item yet with a loose definition for most consumers.

Menus at mid-level restaurants and bars tend to use the term calamari since that's more familiar and appealing to a mass-customer base. And yes, it's synonymous with the deep-fried stuff. We're talking frozen calamari, (a.k.a. squid), rings that are pre-cooked, breaded, frozen and packed into 5lb. bags, shipped to a food service company and then on to an individual restaurant. I've been to places where they don't include the tentacles and simply serve the rings. Again, an attempt I suppose to appeal to customers who just like deep-fried, crunchy food they can dip into bottled marinar or tartar sauce. (Personally, I prefer the tentacles).

On the other hand, when I dine at an upscale Italian restaurant the Chef always uses the term squid on his menu. He's from Northern Italy and stays true to not only his cooking but authentic descriptions on his menu. Regardless of how he prepares it, it's "squid."

I've gone through a large number of my Chinese cookbooks and they all use the term "squid," whether it be deep-fried, braised or stir-fried.

In the opening paragraph, unintentionally, I used the terms interchangeably, so I'm glad you brought the question forward. Great starting point for our discussion and cook-off.

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Great idea for a Cook-Off, David. I live on a North Atlantic bay where squid are showing up in big numbers for the first time in a long time. Kids jig and catch them easily with barbless hooks. Count me in.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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You forgot about CUTTLEFISH. :smile:

In SE Asia, it was more common to eat cuttlefish. (See also: Geographical range of cuttlefish)

Ah. So you're going to show us a delicious Cuttlefish dish!

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Thanks for the link. Ironically, like the BBC recipe I'm going to be using squid and cannelini beans in one of my dishes. And I love the combination of smoky chorizo and seafood. Luckily, I have some dried Spanish chorizo in my fridge so I think I might work that into my dish.

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Working on my first dish. It's a combination of a number of recipes, including a squid dish from Mario Batali. Well, he calls it Squid in the title of the dish, "Squid from Santa Lucia's Port," (Calamari alla Luciana), yet refers to calamari in the text of the recipe. I'm hoping his instructions to cook the squid twice, the first time for 50 minutes and the second cooking for 30 minutes, won't overcook the buggars to the texture of shoe leather.

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So I'm getting ready to cook a squid dish and I'm wondering about this business of "corks." Is it truly a legendary tale told by a Greek Fisherman? Do old wine corks really tenderize squid and octopus? What say you?

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I chronicled my attempts with pre-tenderized calamari steaks here. My current favorite is to slice them in 1/2" strips and marinate for a bit with olive oil and a mash-up in the mortar and pestle of salt, peppercorns, mint, and lemon zest. I then slide them the broiler getting just a hint of char and super tender flesh.

Long ago I stuffed the small bodies with a sausage mixture and cooked them long and slow in a tomato based sauce. I may give that a go again for this Cook-Off.

I usually purchase octopus in small quantities, already cooked, to make rough sushi style bites - rolled with rice and sushi ginger in nori and dipped in soy/wasabi. My sister in Sydney, however, planted the idea of one of their Christmas regulars from the grill - baby octopus marinated in honey and soy. She buys them cleaned. The ones I see in my Asian markets look like they are intact with the sac. I would love some pointers on prep of these little guys and would then give them a go.

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I'm hoping his instructions to cook the squid twice, the first time for 50 minutes and the second cooking for 30 minutes, won't overcook the buggars to the texture of shoe leather.

To be tender, squid needs either to be cooked as briefly as possible (just until white and opaque) or slowly for a very long time. A total cooking time of 1 hour 20 minutes should see it pass through the shoe leather stage and out the other side.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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One of the most popular ways to deal with squid in China is Peas and Squid (豌豆鱿鱼). I've been served it in friends' homes and in restaurants. I make it frequently.

This is my usual variation.

Ingredients: Fresh squid, garlic, bird's eye chilli, sweet peas in the pod (snow peas / sugar snap peas etc are equally acceptable), soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, Chinese chives, salt.

The squid innards are removed and the tentacles cut into one inch sections then reserved. The body is split open and flattened and the skin removed. A light cross-hatch pattern is scored at ¼ inch intervals all over the inside surface of the squid body, then it is cut into approximately 1½ inch square sized pieces.

The peas are de-stringed and halved, the garlic crushed and the chilli chopped. A little peanut oil is heated in the wok and the garlic and chilli added. When fragrant (a few seconds) the beans are added and stirred to coat with oil. Fry briefly until desired done-ness is almost achieved. I like them still to have some bite. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Add some more oil to the wok, heat it and throw in the squid body and tentacles. Stir vigorously. As soon as it curls up and turns white through ( a matter of seconds), add the peas, soy sauce, oyster sauce and chopped Chinese chives.

Mix well. Sprinkle on some sesame oil, check seasoning and serve immediately. Do not overcook!

Can be served on its own with rice for a simple meal. Or with other dishes as part of a Chinese family style meal.

Sorry, no pictures of the cooking process. That happens too quickly.

squid1.jpg

squid2a.jpg

squid 3.jpg

squid4.jpg

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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One of the most popular ways to deal with squid in China is Peas and Squid (豌豆鱿鱼). I've been served it in friends' homes and in restaurants. I make it frequently.

This is my usual variation.

Ingredients: Fresh squid, garlic, bird's eye chilli, sweet peas in the pod (snow peas / sugar snap peas etc are equally acceptable), soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, Chinese chives, salt.

The squid innards are removed and the tentacles cut into one inch sections then reserved. The body is split open and flattened and the skin removed. A light cross-hatch pattern is scored at ¼ inch intervals all over the inside surface of the squid body, then it is cut into approximately 1½ inch square sized pieces.

The peas are de-stringed and halved, the garlic crushed and the chilli chopped. A little peanut oil is heated in the wok and the garlic and chilli added. When fragrant (a few seconds) the beans are added and stirred to coat with oil. Fry briefly until desired done-ness is almost achieved. I like them still to have some bite. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Add some more oil to the wok, heat it and throw in the squid body and tentacles. Stir vigorously. As soon as it curls up and turns white through ( a matter of seconds), add the peas, soy sauce, oyster sauce and chopped Chinese chives.

Mix well. Sprinkle on some sesame oil, check seasoning and serve immediately. Do not overcook!

Can be served on its own with rice for a simple meal. Or with other dishes as part of a Chinese family style meal.

Sorry, no pictures of the cooking process. That happens too quickly.

attachicon.gifsquid1.jpg

attachicon.gifsquid2a.jpg

attachicon.gifsquid 3.jpg

attachicon.gifsquid4.jpg

Do you always use fresh squid? The only products I have available are frozen, but they seem to work well. I'm wondering if freezing breaks down the squid, ultimately affecting the cooked flavor?

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I'm in Eastern, WA, in Spokane. My fishmonger has very good frozen octopus, baby octopus and two types of squid. We just don't have a large enough demographic over here that would make it worth the cost for him to carry fresh octopus. I might try having something shipped over from Seattle.

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For a long time I worked in Seattle but lived in Spokane. I only travel to Seattle occasionally for business, but I'm still fairly well dialed into their food scene.

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