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David Ross

Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus

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David beautiful job on that sablefish and with this cook-off. Really enjoyed the cured fish thread also. Is the batter that you used for the fried squid what you use with other fried items?

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David beautiful job on that sablefish and with this cook-off. Really enjoyed the cured fish thread also. Is the batter that you used for the fried squid what you use with other fried items?

Thanks for the great question and I'm glad you enjoy our cook-offs. The steps I used for the deep-fried calamari are the same basic steps I use for deep-frying other seafood-

1. Seasoned all-purpose flour. (Usually just salt and pepper for the

seasoning).

2. Evaporated milk.

3. Mix of potato flour and cornstarch and seasoning. (Usually more salt,

pepper and then a good dose of Old Bay seasoning).

4. Into hot oil, (usually canola oil), at 350.

I sometimes change the mix of #3, substituting finely milled corn flour for the potato flour. The potato flour is really good for large filets for fish and chips. The corn flour lends sweetness and flavor for deep-frying clams, oysters and calamari, and the cornstarch extra crispiness.

I never thought of venturing out by using different types and mixes of flours for deep-frying until a few years ago, but it adds a whole different dimension in terms of flavor and texture. You have the flexibility to match the flour to the specific flavor and texture profile of the seafood.

Deep-frying meats is a whole different matter in my kitchen and I don't use the same flour mix as I do for seafood.

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This morning I woke up early with grand plans to catch squid. I mean, nothing's more eGullet HarcoreTM than truly adopting the paddock pier-to-plate mantra, is there? >_> benthescientist came along too. We had no luck, tho', and on the way home I bought some squid as I really wanted to try making calamari rings. I dusted them with flour and some Japanese seven spice powder. They were dunked into a batter made with flour, corn flour, water and vodka. They were deep fried for ~3 minutes in ~180C sunflower oil.

For a first attempt I guess they're okay. I haven't produced rubber bands or anything. The second batch (same recipe) is superior to the first. I'm wondering if this is because--I think, anyway--the oil was a little hotter (i.e. had crept over 180C).


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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This morning I woke up early with grand plans to catch squid. I mean, nothing's more eGullet HarcoreTM than truly adopting the paddock pier-to-plate mantra, is there? >_> benthescientist came along too. We had no luck, tho', and on the way home I bought some squid as I really wanted to try making calamari rings. I dusted them with flour and some Japanese seven spice powder. They were dunked into a batter made with flour, corn flour, water and vodka. They were deep fried for ~3 minutes in ~180C sunflower oil.

For a first attempt I guess they're okay. I haven't produced rubber bands or anything. The second batch (same recipe) is superior to the first. I'm wondering if this is because--I think, anyway--the oil was a little hotter (i.e. had crept over 180C).

First off, congratulations on your intrepid spirit in venturing out to catch live squid. Of all the cook-offs I've moderated, that has to be a first.

I think the temperature of the oil sounds right. Oil that's much hotter than 180c (356f), is too hot in my experience. Did you feel that the calamari wasn't crispy enough? I'm wondering if somehow the alcohol in the vodka created some kind of reaction during deep-frying that softened the end result? Any experts out there?

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Hi David, alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Also, alcohol does not wet the flour as much as water, and therefore promotes less gluten formation. For these reasons, batters made with high amounts of alcohol tend to be more crispy than batters made with plain water. Heston Blumenthal at Home gives a recipe for battered fish with the batter made with vodka and dispensed through an ISI whipper. I have attempted this recipe and it results in the lightest, crispiest batter you have ever seen.

As for why Chris' second batch turned out better than the first, there are all sorts of variables. If he failed to monitor the temperature of the oil, as he suggested, this could cause the result to be different. Also, if the batter was initially cold and then warmed to room temperature for the second batch, this will lower the viscosity of the batter - therefore less batter sticks to the squid rings. He may or may not have preferred this result.

I am not surprised that Chris failed to catch any squid, because they tend to be more of a cold water species and are best found between May - September in Australia.


There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

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Hi David, alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Also, alcohol does not wet the flour as much as water, and therefore promotes less gluten formation. For these reasons, batters made with high amounts of alcohol tend to be more crispy than batters made with plain water. Heston Blumenthal at Home gives a recipe for battered fish with the batter made with vodka and dispensed through an ISI whipper. I have attempted this recipe and it results in the lightest, crispiest batter you have ever seen.

As for why Chris' second batch turned out better than the first, there are all sorts of variables. If he failed to monitor the temperature of the oil, as he suggested, this could cause the result to be different. Also, if the batter was initially cold and then warmed to room temperature for the second batch, this will lower the viscosity of the batter - therefore less batter sticks to the squid rings. He may or may not have preferred this result.

I am not surprised that Chris failed to catch any squid, because they tend to be more of a cold water species and are best found between May - September in Australia.

Thanks for all the info. I'll remember that next time I do some deep-frying. Great tips.

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For my next dish I did a version of Jose Andres "Smoky Paella with Shrimp and Squid." It was a good starting point for a paella novice. As I move through my squid dishes, I've found that it's a great addition to seafood dishes. It adds texture and a mild flavor, and this paella without the squid would not have had that extra dimension.

Always tinkering with recipes, I made a few variations from Andres instructions:

-He calls for "large shrimp," and I used frozen, "jumbo prawns." I knew they probably wouldn't be great, but that's all I could find. I preferred whole body, head-on prawns, but the frozen ones I can find locally are mush. Unfortunately I don't live in a city where I have access to live shrimp or fresh langoustines. So I was left with fairly tasteless thawed, farm-raised prawns.

-Andres says you can substitute arborio rice for Valencia. I haven't cooked enough paella so I don't know the difference and I can buy arborio rice locally.

-The recipe calls for 1 tsp. of hot smoked paprika. I was still aching to use the beautiful dried Spanish chorizo I had, so I added about 3/4 cup of chopped chorizo in addition to the smoked paprika. Probably not something I would do next time. The chorizo was overly-salty and the combination of smoked paprika powder and the heavy amount of smoked paprika in the chorizo over-powered the seafood and the delicate taste and aroma of the saffron in the dish.

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-I added fresh Mussels from Puget Sound on the West side of the state. In the end, I could have eliminated the prawns and just used mussels and squid and it would have been a delicious paella.

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-I don't have a paella pan, so I used my old deep, cast iron skillet. My naivete as to the specific type of rice used in paella spills over to the cooking vessel. The cast iron skillet worked fine, but I'm not in tune with the results that come from using an authentic Spanish pan.

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-This is an easy and quick recipe and you don't have to fuss much with the mussels and squid. Just place the seafood on top of the hot rice and let it cook until the squid is just done and the mussels open.

026.JPG

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In serious need of comfort food today I grabbed some calamari steaks to be marinated and broiled. (The indulgent comfort liner being KFC slaw and baked from frozen extra crunchy crinkle cut fries served w/ horseradish mayo and sriracha) Here is the roughly cut steak ready to be marinated 2 ways. One batch will be Korean hot bean paste, sesame oil, pickled ginger, fresh tangerine juice, walnut oil and soy sauce. The other will be garlic, olive oil, lemon juice & zest and some fresh basil which I did not get in the shot. I don't think marinades really penetrate the dense flesh - I suppose it just adds some surface flavor and aroma.

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Hi David, alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Also, alcohol does not wet the flour as much as water, and therefore promotes less gluten formation. For these reasons, batters made with high amounts of alcohol tend to be more crispy than batters made with plain water. Heston Blumenthal at Home gives a recipe for battered fish with the batter made with vodka and dispensed through an ISI whipper. I have attempted this recipe and it results in the lightest, crispiest batter you have ever seen.

As for why Chris' second batch turned out better than the first, there are all sorts of variables. If he failed to monitor the temperature of the oil, as he suggested, this could cause the result to be different. Also, if the batter was initially cold and then warmed to room temperature for the second batch, this will lower the viscosity of the batter - therefore less batter sticks to the squid rings. He may or may not have preferred this result.

I am not surprised that Chris failed to catch any squid, because they tend to be more of a cold water species and are best found between May - September in Australia.

Thanks for all the info. I'll remember that next time I do some deep-frying. Great tips.

The batter was good. I had no problems with the batter at all. It was the calamari itself that was problematic. Another variable is the quality of the squid itself. I don't think it was very good: hence why I didn't just go to the fishmongers in the first place, as I think it's something with a short shelf life.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Wow, so much Wow:

Korean.jpg

I have this same Korean Item which I have not used yet!

and a couple of those Bins of Paste!

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Hi David, alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Also, alcohol does not wet the flour as much as water, and therefore promotes less gluten formation. For these reasons, batters made with high amounts of alcohol tend to be more crispy than batters made with plain water. Heston Blumenthal at Home gives a recipe for battered fish with the batter made with vodka and dispensed through an ISI whipper. I have attempted this recipe and it results in the lightest, crispiest batter you have ever seen.

As for why Chris' second batch turned out better than the first, there are all sorts of variables. If he failed to monitor the temperature of the oil, as he suggested, this could cause the result to be different. Also, if the batter was initially cold and then warmed to room temperature for the second batch, this will lower the viscosity of the batter - therefore less batter sticks to the squid rings. He may or may not have preferred this result.

I am not surprised that Chris failed to catch any squid, because they tend to be more of a cold water species and are best found between May - September in Australia.

Thanks for all the info. I'll remember that next time I do some deep-frying. Great tips.

The batter was good. I had no problems with the batter at all. It was the calamari itself that was problematic. Another variable is the quality of the squid itself. I don't think it was very good: hence why I didn't just go to the fishmongers in the first place, as I think it's something with a short shelf life.

I bought three different brands of frozen squid. The product I bought from my fishmonger that was from a California producer was the best. I know he regularly rotates his frozen items so I'm sure it wasn't too old. I cooked with it three times and it always turned out tender yet firm. The batch from Safeway was tasteless and tough. Although it was still within its "best by" date, I think it was a combination of being old and brined in salt before it was sold. The third batch, from the Asian market, was the worst. Their frozen seafood is typically mushy, mealy and sometimes smells like old gym socks.

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In serious need of comfort food today I grabbed some calamari steaks to be marinated and broiled. (The indulgent comfort liner being KFC slaw and baked from frozen extra crunchy crinkle cut fries served w/ horseradish mayo and sriracha) Here is the roughly cut steak ready to be marinated 2 ways. One batch will be Korean hot bean paste, sesame oil, pickled ginger, fresh tangerine juice, walnut oil and soy sauce. The other will be garlic, olive oil, lemon juice & zest and some fresh basil which I did not get in the shot. I don't think marinades really penetrate the dense flesh - I suppose it just adds some surface flavor and aroma.

attachicon.gif013.JPG

Heidi I'm impressed by your flavor combinations, especially the introduction of walnut oil in the Korean marinade. Where did you find such thick calamari steaks? You've got me hungry for dinner.

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David - these are the steaks I wrote about beforehttp://forums.egullet.org/topic/95827-calamari-steaks/#entry1832822 They must come from BIG BOY squid and are pre-tenderized. Once I slip them under the broiler from the raw state it is just a matter of 5 minutes or so to get them at that perfect state of tender. I added the walnut oil to the Korean one because the bit of sesame oil is so strong and I thought the lesser nuttiness of the walnut would harmonize - just playing around. I will be broiling shortly.

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Wow Heidi, I'm really envious. That looks delicious. I'm heading into a challenging long week, (literally week), at work, but when I get a weekend back I'm going to try your calamari steak.

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Not all that different looking from the Korean style these are the lemon and garlic version. The texture and flavor are so lovely. That is why I called it comfort food. Move over mac n; cheese. O forgot to note that these also had lots of whole peppercorns mashed in the M & P with the garlic and lemon

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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-

attachicon.gif017.JPG

Some of the sauce ingredients and the dried Italian bucatini-

attachicon.gif021.JPG

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-

attachicon.gif032.JPG

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-

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.

Almost off topic and trivial question...why did the sauce take two days. Is the refrigeration of the day 1 product important?

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When I've made this sauce in one day it didn't have the depth of flavor as the 2-day version. It might be my taste buds suggesting it's an old wives tale, but it just seems to taste better once you let the sauce settle after the first day.

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Have you tried adding all of the ingredients that give depth of flavour on the first day (garlic, chili) and compared the results? It seems to be a fairly conventional tomato-based sauce that you should be able to make in an hour at most. If you want depth of flavour, retain a portion of some of the ingredients to add later in the cooking process enable some to be cooked longer and some shorter.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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David - these are the steaks I wrote about beforehttp://forums.egullet.org/topic/95827-calamari-steaks/#entry1832822 They must come from BIG BOY squid and are pre-tenderized. Once I slip them under the broiler from the raw state it is just a matter of 5 minutes or so to get them at that perfect state of tender. I added the walnut oil to the Korean one because the bit of sesame oil is so strong and I thought the lesser nuttiness of the walnut would harmonize - just playing around. I will be broiling shortly.

Heidih

Where can I get steaks like that?

That is awesome!!

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Its good to have Morels

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Paul - I used to get them at Whole Foods but they claimed they stopped carrying them because of sustainability issues which seems odd with squid. I now get them at a chain called Bristol Farms - but it is a frozen product so fish markets should be able to order a box for you. When the counter guy brought the box out is was shoebox sized and the steaks are individually plastic-wrapped.

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Paul - I used to get them at Whole Foods but they claimed they stopped carrying them because of sustainability issues which seems odd with squid.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium list does not show any problems with squid. There are some areas with overfishing like the Falkland Islands as featured in this article today. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/outlaw-fleet-scoops-squid-argentine-waters

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Have you tried adding all of the ingredients that give depth of flavour on the first day (garlic, chili) and compared the results? It seems to be a fairly conventional tomato-based sauce that you should be able to make in an hour at most. If you want depth of flavour, retain a portion of some of the ingredients to add later in the cooking process enable some to be cooked longer and some shorter.

It seems that the tomato sauce base deepens in flavor if you hold it over to day two and then add the garlic and chili to finish the sauce. And......it gets better from there. I may use the combined sauces and add meat on a third or fourth day and each step the sauce flavors gain more depth.

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Paul - I used to get them at Whole Foods but they claimed they stopped carrying them because of sustainability issues which seems odd with squid. I now get them at a chain called Bristol Farms - but it is a frozen product so fish markets should be able to order a box for you. When the counter guy brought the box out is was shoebox sized and the steaks are individually plastic-wrapped.

Thanks for the information on the calamari steaks Heidi. I remember shopping at a Bristol Farms in Hollywood many years ago.

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