The glory of calamari.

Calamari a la Plancha

“My master is a many-armed cuttlefish” -Caliban from Dan Simmons’ “Ilium”.

Okay, squid isn’t the same as cuttlefish.  Sure, with octopi they are all cephalopods, but the similarities end around there.  Maybe it’s an Italian thing, but I love squid and until recently, I thought the only way to enjoy it was out of the deep fryer at my local tavern.  I tried it once in my own kitchen in the form of ceviche, but I didn’t pay attention to the recipe and I’ll admit that I botched it, I botched it good.

Enter the Barcelona cookbook.  Like so many a Saturday night, it saved my homemade calamari aspirations.  Furthermore, it enabled me to cook calamari in a health, tasty, and best of all, CHEAP way from the safety and warmth of my own kitchen.  I no longer use the cooking method to the letter, and having carefully reviewed the Good Eats classics Squid Pro Quo (Parts 1 AND 2), I have developed a hybridized version.

Barcelona insinuates and AB confirms that squid is only chewy if you cook it in the medium timeframe, over 4 minutes but under 20.  For the ‘a la plancha’ method, simply slice the heads (“tubes” if you will) into rings and cut apart the legs a small bit then blast the ten-legged buggers in your grill pan at maximal heat for 2-4 minutes until the squid releases its liquid and changes color.  Seriously, don’t fear the reaper on this one- give the pan (make sure it is NOT Teflon-coated) every last BTU your stove has to give.  Salt, pepper and lemon and I’m in heaven.  No more, no less.  Elizabeth likes a bit of the spicy tomato sauce as garnish, and that’s fine, too.

Seppie alla Veneziana, or Squid, Venetian Style

The Venetian-style squid is the opposite: a lovely stewed dish.  Tomatoes and white wine reduce into a sweet, savory sauce.  Prepared this way, the squid is softer and easier to chew, more imbued with the flavor of the sauce, but also less, I dunno, squidish.  Elizabeth is more a fan of this method, whereas I go for the hot-and-fast, more chewing-involved Barcelona style.  This isn’t to say it’s tough or hard-to-eat… to me, it’s almost more fun to eat when it bites back a little.  To mix the methods, marinate the squid in citrus for an hour or so then give it the plancha (grill) with all due furor.

The squid is a great snack, dinner opener or prima secondi, all in equal measure.  Squids are inexpensive, healthy and cook up in no time.  In other words, a perfect foodstuff.  So fear not the many-armed beast, friends.  Slice, sear, serve and cook on!

  1. I admit, I DO fear the squid. I can’t get past the tentacles. I get spooked.

  2. i love eating calamari, but i don’t have the know-how to cook it up. good job with this dish, however. it looks amazing and you have inspired me to give it a try.

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