|Fresh baby squid|
Thanks to Mario Batali's lobster risotto recipe, my fear of a claggy, unappealing risotto has all but evaporated. I even managed to make it sans a recipe the last time - while scaling it down! You should be impressed. If you had seen any of my previously undesirable attempts you would have shuddered. My husband can attest to their calamity. All in the name of food progress and research!
My next project has been mastering squid. Not just calamari rings - which, while presenting their own unique challenge to attain a certain level of tenderness, are delicious - I wanted to go beyond the deep fryer this time. I tend to go through phases where I will decide I want to learn how to cook something, and keep making it until I can almost do it in my sleep. Not to worry, I don't torture my husband with daily burnt offerings. Rather, it happens probably once every three weeks, or when my ingredient of choice is über fresh.
I had purchased some baby squid a couple of weeks back from my favourite fish monger, and went back to get some more. They only had frozen ones - which are perfectly suited for making fried calamari rings, but I was looking for the delicate baby squid I had purchased before. He assured me that they were getting their order in that day, and that he would put aside some for me.
As promised, the store called me the next day to tell me they were in. I arrived at the store armed with an icepack and my thermal bag to bring home my delicate cargo. Experience from many years ago has taught me that for some reason, fragile seafood doesn't thrive in a hot trunk - who knew? If I am on the fly and am not prepared, the fish suppliers are more than happy to provide me with a small bag of ice for the trip home. The clerk politely asked if I knew how to clean them, I assured him I did. (If you don't know how, don't be afraid to ask them to do it for you - that's why they're there.)
I got them home and enlisted the help of my husband for the cleaning of the squid. They were beautiful, fresh and never frozen. Cleaning them is really not that difficult - you need to remove the bluish/purple mottled outer dermis, clean out the ink sac (and other innards) and remove the tentacles. There is also a small 'beak' inside the head you should remove if you plan on using the head. Remove the gladius (it looks like a plastic blade) grasping firmly to pull out, then discard. A good rinsing follows to remove any slimy residue on the inside - this is probably the most tedious part.
|Cleaned squid - a blank canvass for flavour|
Once this part was done, I cut each piece into four relatively equal pieces and scored it. The scoring makes for a very striking presentation. Be sure to only score the inside of the squid, not the outside or it will not curl up into a beautiful spiral shape.
|Lightly seasoned to enhance the natural flavours|
Seasoning was very simple. Sea salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme) and lemon zest (Not lemon juice, as this would start to 'cook' the flesh and make for rubbery squid). Cook them in a very hot pan - they will only take about 45 seconds per piece. Once it curls up, it is finished and should be promptly removed from the pan. I had already prepared some finely chopped red chili, garlic, and some olive oil. I tossed the cooked squid in this and it was ready to eat.
|Quickly pan seared and served with mushroom risotto|
The flavour of fresh baby squid is very mild, so I try not to bury the subtle flavour with too much . We enjoyed the squid on a bed of mushroom and saffron scented risotto. I've almost perfected this dish and can't wait to try it again.