Saturday, September 20, 2014


Squid in its own ink.

Last week I gave you “Squid Stuffed With Meat,” a felicitous stand-in for stuffed peppers. In the how-to-clean-squid bit, I showed how to remove the squid’s ink sac, noting that “the ink is not required for this recipe.”  I saved the ink in the freezer.

When this week I found small, baby squid, called chipirones, at the market, I was inspired to continue the squid adventure and make that wonderful Basque dish, chipirones en su tinta—squid in its own ink.

When I was still a high school student in Illinois, my parents made a trip to Spain and returned with many tales to tell, including one about eating squid served in its own ink. Squid? Oh, gross. In black ink sauce? Weird.

Years later when I found “squid in its own ink” on a restaurant menu, with a sense of adventure, I ordered it. It became my second favorite dish when eating out (favorite was txangurro, spider crab cooked in its shell). This was at a Basque restaurant in the village where I live in southern Spain. I later wheedled the recipe out of the gran dama in the kitchen, Doña Pía.

Doña Pia was built like a top—of large girth, with tiny feet and a tiny knot of a bun on top. She would sit in the kitchen with her feet up on a stool and command operations all around her. (A telling tale about Basque women: When one day the devil decided he wanted to learn the notoriously difficult Basque language, he hid himself behind the door in a Basque kitchen to listen. At the end of a whole year, he had learned two words in Basque, “Yes, ma’am.”)

This week’s version of squid in ink sauce wasn’t quite perfect. I had too much sauce (sofrito of onion and tomato) for the amount of ink, so it didn’t have that deep, glossy black color, even with the addition of the ink saved in the freezer. But, it tasted just fine. The ten-year-old at the table said, “Yeah, looks like dolphin barf!” and ate two helpings.

Squid in ink sauce, traditionally served in a cazuela.

Squid in black ink sauce is a really hard dish to photograph! As it’s traditionally served, in a terra cotta cazuela, the squid just look like lumps submerged in black tar. So, I tried to have some fun with it, trying different color contrasts.

Contrast: black sauce, white squid, red peppers.

Add white rice to the sauce. More contrast, in texture too.

Squid in Its Own Ink
Chipirones en Su Tinta

In the late summer, baby squid, measuring two to three inches, come into the market. In Andalusia they are usually floured and fried whole or grilled on an oiled griddle and served sprinkled with olive oil, garlic and parsley. In the Basque Country they are cooked in a sauce colored black with their own ink. This dish also can be made with large squid. In that case the body pouch is opened up and cut into three-inch squares.

Serve the squid with triangles of bread fried in olive oil or with scoops of white rice.

Serves six as a tapa or two as a main course.

Small squid.
2 dozen 3-inch squid, about 1 1/4 pounds
1 ounce chopped serrano ham
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig of parsley
1 onion, cut in several pieces
2 tomatoes (12 ounces)

Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
1/4 cup white wine

Clean the squid. Pull the head and tentacles gently out from the body pouch. The innards will come away with the head.

On the innards is a tiny silver sac which contains the ink. Separate it carefully.

Crush the ink sacs and add water.

Next cut off the tentacles just above the eyes. Save the tentacles. Discard the head and innards.

Pull out the transparent cartilage from inside the body pouch and discard it. Pull the fins off the body and save them. Pull off and discard the skin.

Poke the tip of the squid with a fingertip and turn it inside-out, rolling it down over your finger like a---ok, you get the picture. Wash the squid, drain and pat dry. (Leave it inside-out.)
Wash and drain the tentacles and fins. Pat them dry. Chop them coarsely. Combine the chopped tentacles and chopped ham.

Squid cleaned and ready for cooking.

Stuff the body pouches with the chopped mixture, using a finger to poke the stuffing in. Pinch the opening closed (does not need a toothpick).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet. Fry the squid in two or three batches, adding an additional tablespoon of oil after the first batch is fried. Turn the squid in the oil until golden on all sides. They do not need to be crisp. (You may want to dust the squid with flour before frying. The coating of flour helps to prevent them from spattering in the oil.) Remove the squid to a cazuela.

In a food processor, chop the garlic and parsley. Add the onion and process until finely chopped.

Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Sauté the chopped onion mixture until onion is softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

While onion is cooking, chop the tomato in the processor. Add the tomato to the skillet. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes, until tomatoes have sweated out their liquid. Season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper. Add the brandy, if using, and continue cooking, stirring frequently. Let the mixture just begin to thicken and stick, then add 1/4 cup of water. Cook for 20 minutes. Sieve the sauce and return it to the pan.

Using the back of a spoon, crush the ink sacs reserved in the bowl. Press it through a fine sieve (such as a tea strainer) into the sauce. Add the wine. Stir and cook five minutes. If sauce is too thick, add a little water.

Pour the sauce over the squid in the cazuela. Heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes.

White Rice
Arroz Blanco

Makes 10 ½-cup servings.

3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups medium-short grain rice
Olive oil to grease mold

Place the water, olive oil, salt and bay leaf in a pan and bring the water to a boil. Add the rice. Bring again to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat without uncovering and let the rice rest for eight minutes. Fluff it with a fork.

Spoon the rice into an oiled ½ -cup measure, packing it slightly. Unmold onto plates.

Would you like more cephalopods? We can segue right into octopus and cuttlefish and continue the inky adventure. Let me know! 



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