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Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus


David Ross
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Just at the market for a few basic items and what did they have? A huge fresh octopus. I didn't buy it, but now I know there's a source close by for ordering fresh octopus. Working on my first squid dish for this evening.

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My squid is thawing out along with some (crappy) hot sausage. I am planning on something like Heidi mentioned up-thread, but I'm nervous lol. My husband claims to NOT like squid. He will eat a few fried rings if they aren't chewy. I've never had squid baked before and hope it gets really tender and doesn't resemble a hunk of leather.

Question: If I make a spaghetti type sauce (or red gravy if you will) is that ok to bake the squid in? I can't find a recipe that I'm in love with. Plus, if my husband won't eat the squid I can switch him to spaghetti and meatballs.

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Shelby - I think that type of sauce is how I first tasted squid eons ago. Don't overstuff as the squid tightens up a bit and the stuffing "expands". I included bread crumbs. Toothpicks can be used to seal up the ends a bit. It has been a while but as I recall the squid ends up being more like a casing for the sausage though tender. Not a very squid tasting dish at all. Since squid is sweet tasting it marries well with the tomato base and the sausage.

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Shelby - I think that type of sauce is how I first tasted squid eons ago. Don't overstuff as the squid tightens up a bit and the stuffing "expands". I included bread crumbs. Toothpicks can be used to seal up the ends a bit. It has been a while but as I recall the squid ends up being more like a casing for the sausage though tender. Not a very squid tasting dish at all. Since squid is sweet tasting it marries well with the tomato base and the sausage.

Thank you, Heidi! That's exactly what I was needing to know :)

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Before I started cooking I did a comparison between pre-cleaned frozen squid from the supermarket and whole frozen squid from my fishmonger.

The pre-cleaned squid was farm-raised in Vietnam. It sold for 3.99 for 12oz. I didn't get a photo of the packaging, but the tentacles were separated from the bodies and packed into a separate compartment in the box. These squid were really tiny, which I found was not as desirable as larger squid due to the shrinkage that takes place during cooking-

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I bought a 3lb. box of frozen whole squid from the fishmonger. It was slightly cheaper than the pre-cleaned squid from the supermarket. They're from a California company-

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The whole squid were about twice the size of the pre-cleaned squid, but certainly not as convenient. I've cleaned a lot of squid so I don't mind the time it takes to cut the tentacles off the head, pull the skin layer of the body, pull out the innards and then pull out the quill. If you're a novice at cleaning squid, the box has clear instructions.

The uncleaned whole squid-

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And the cleaned squid with tentacles, and bodies cut into thick rings-

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Whenever I buy the pre-cleaned stuff I'm disappointed. It's puny and doesn't have much flavor. One wonders how long it's been sitting in the freezer case at Safeway. The whole squid always taste fresher, (albeit they've been frozen), and the size advantage makes a difference in the end result of my cooked dishes.

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One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish? Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece. I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking. One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.

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One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish? Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece. I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking. One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.

One more question, Heidi, sorry to be a pain.

What or how did you incorporate the tentacle parts of the squid into the dish? Maybe just dice them and put them in the sauce that the stuffed parts braise in?

Not sure about Heidi, but I always keep the tentacles in one piece. I like the presentation of all those curly little tentacles, but I also like the texture of that part of the squid so I keep it in one piece. It's fairly small and will shrink during cooking. One of my dishes is squid braised in a spicy tomato sauce with tentacles (one piece, not chopped), then the bodies cut in rings.

Ok, that's what I'll do then, thanks!

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One of or local fishmongers has had a fresh, whole octopus in their showcase every weekend. Arranged artistically on the bed of ice in the cooler. (Not the same one -they assure me !! :rolleyes: ) They seem to sell one a week. While I like eating octopus the reality of dealing with the whole critter intimidates me.

Any tips should I be brave?

Best octopus I have ever eaten was in Mexico, Guaymas, middle Baja. Either a whole or half octopus (cut up) depending on the size, marinated in adobo I think and then grilled over charcoal - lovely almost burned edges. Fork tender (probably frozen then thawed and cooked unless someone spent an hour beating them on the pavement). Served with peppers and grilled onions.

Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta

Canada

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Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.

I'm just keepin' it real.

You need 4 Italian Grandmothers around the table helping stuff those devils. :rolleyes:

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Ok, it's tedious as hell stuffing these.

I'm just keepin' it real.

You need 4 Italian Grandmothers around the table helping stuff those devils. :rolleyes:

YES!

Ok, so I have a huge, nice salad made (as nice as it can be for winter in Kansas), pasta water is on, homemade sauce with meatballs is stewing and the stuffed calamari is simmering in sauce.

I told my husband he could go ahead and eat once the pasta is done. He responded by telling me the more wine he has, the more he may be able to eat the stuffed calamari.

Sigh.

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Here's dinner last night. It was pretty good. Very tender. My husband just does not like squid, though.

I have about 1/2 a pound left so I'm going to do a more , shall we say, plain version.

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933797.475142.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933894.541777.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362933985.865377.jpg

attachicon.gifImageUploadedByTapatalk1362934009.005752.jpg

Looks delicious.

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I’ve cooked with squid for years, but in really simple dishes like fish stews, deep-fried or as a garnish for other seafood. This was my first attempt using octopus as the main star of a dish. I went into it with trepidation, but in the end, I was very surprised.

I bought these frozen, pre-cleaned, baby octopus from my fishmonger. They’re not labeled or pre-packaged, so I think he gets them in fresh in bulk and then bags them and freezes them at the store. I’ll ask him about the source next time I’m in-

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The dish is a combination of recipes—my own tomato sauce, (taken from the Time-Life series Foods of the World-The Cooking of Italy), and Mario Batali’s recipe for “Squid from Santa Lucia’s Port, (Calamari all Luciana). I chose baby octopus rather than squid and I selected bucatini pasta because I wanted something in the shape of spaghetti, yet heavy enough in texture to stand up to a thick and spicy tomato sauce.

I intentionally chose a recipe that called for using a “cork” to soften the octopus. I wanted to see if the old wives tale was true—that cork has natural properties that tenderizes octopus. The recipe calls for boiling the octopus in water with a good dose of red wine vinegar. I suspect that’s the scientific proof, not the cork. The acid element in vinegar is most likely what tenderizes the octopus. (At least it made me feel like I was following some sort of authentic method).

The first part of the recipe sounds scary-“simmer the octopus for 50-60 minutes until tender.”

Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

The Octopus-

2 pounds baby octopus, cleaned, tentacles cut off body and bodies cut into 1/2” wide rings

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 used wine corks

Fill a large deep pot with water. Add the vinegar, and the wine corks and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and add the octopus. Cook the octopus for 50 minutes. Drain the octopus from the water and allow to cool. At this point you can refrigerate the octopus in a covered dish until ready for service.

After nearly an hour in a hot water bath-

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Some of the sauce ingredients and the dried Italian bucatini-

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Tomato Sauce, Day One-

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 cups canned, diced, San Marzano tomatoes

3 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. minced fresh basil

1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano

1 tsp. sugar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions and cook until the onions are soft yet not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, sugar and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the saucepan. Cook the sauce for 1 hour.

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree. The sauce can be kept covered and refrigerated. At this point I kept the octopus in the refrigerator overnight. I had no clue as to whether it was going to be soft and tender or bounce like a super ball.

Tomato Sauce, Day Two-

4 tbsp. olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried red chile flakes

2 cups tomato sauce

½ cup dry white wine

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

On the day you’re ready to use the sauce, heat a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and once it’s warmed, add the garlic and the chile flakes and cook until the garlic just starts to turn brown. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the tomato sauce, the wine, and the pre-cooked octopus. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the sauce, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

And the octopus braising in the pot for 30 minutes-

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While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the dried bucatini pasta and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. (I happen to prefer soft pasta to ‘al dente.’)

Drain the bucatini, reserving some of the pasta water. Turn the bucatini into the octopus in tomato sauce and toss to combine. (You can add pasta water to thin the sauce at this point). Stir the pasta and sauce into a serving dish, garnish with some of the octopus and chopped Italian parsley.

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

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The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam. The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus. A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish. The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice. But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.

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I posted the photo of the octopus dish on my Facebook page and none other than Mauro Maccioni chimed in and mentioned that small octopus are called "moscardini" in Italy. I think I'll file this recipe in a special place.

For my next dish I'm going West of Italy to the French Mediterranean for a dish of squid, sea scallop, cannelini beans and chorizo oil. It's based on a dish from Ducasse and the idea of using chorizo as a flavor element comes from Member ninagluck. I hope it turns out as delicious as the octopus.

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. . . .

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

attachicon.gif036.JPG

The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam. The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus. A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish. The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice. But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.

That is so lovely, and somehow baroque-looking! Regarding the thickness of the pasta, I'm wondering whether relatively thin, but rough-surfaced tagliatelle would work with this.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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. . . .

The final dish, Baby Octopus in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Bucatini-

attachicon.gif036.JPG

The octopus was tender yet had some “chew” to it, akin to a properly cooked razor clam. The sauce, fiercly redolent of garlic and the heat of the chiles, was a perfect match for the octopus. A wimpy white wine sauce wouldn’t have stood up in this dish. The bucatini was a bit too thick, spaghetti might have been a better choice. But all in all, a very good dish for a novice attempt at cooking octopus.

That is so lovely, and somehow baroque-looking! Regarding the thickness of the pasta, I'm wondering whether relatively thin, but rough-surfaced tagliatelle would work with this.

I might try that. I think any thin pasta like angel hair would be way too fine. I have a brand of thick spaghetti that would work well--thicker than regular spaghetti but not as thick as bucatini. I like the idea of tagliatelle so I'll do some shopping this week. Thanks for the idea.

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I wish I had read this New York Times piece before I started cooking my octopus dish. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/dining/05curious.html?_r=0) There are some good scientific facts here that debunk the cork myth, including a point that freezing the octopus or squid basically tenderizes the flesh. I sort of fumbled into my dish, but it worked--a slow simmer in water and vinegar to start, then a second braise in the tomato sauce. Unknowingly, I was basically breaking down the fibers in the tissue and I found my final dish to have very tender octopus. But I figured correctly when I assumed following a Batali recipe would produce good results. I'm talking octopus here. For my next dish I'm going to use squid and will only be cooking them for about 15 seconds in a hot saute pan so no beating, vinegar or wine corks will be used.

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nice article. but as I read it he didn't try freezing:

Modern writers generally claim that freezing does the same thing, and therefore frozen octopus is actually preferable to fresh.

But freezing is known to worsen fibrousness in cod and other fish, and I had a hunch that it might in octopus, too. “

I take it that McGee thought

“Blanch the unbrined octopus arms for 30 seconds in boiling water, cook them in a covered dry pan in a 200-degree oven for four or five hours or until tender, and cool them slowly in their own juices. Pour off the juices and boil them down to concentrate them. You get tender octopus and a flavorful, colorful, gelatinous sauce. (Brining makes the sauce too salty.)”

Was best.

is this your take?

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