Keep the Ink! Cook it…II!

The previous post showed  how to clean  squids while saving their precious ink to make the wonderful recipe Calamares in su Tinta,  Calamars à l’Encre or Squid in their own Ink. But first let me share some sweet family history about this dish.

When we first moved to this country in 1987, my son Joseph was 6. When he started school we were told there was a cantina where the kids could buy their lunches. At first we were all eager to blend in so we decided to go with it. First day of school, and little Joseph comes home appalled reporting that there was no lunch served, only pizza and hot dogs! AND kids who brought their own lunches had peanut & jelly sandwiches —to this day I don’t think he would consider eating one unless truly starved. We then decided to pack him a real lunch, and that didn’t include sandwiches, that was picnic food, he was used to French public schools ,then family style, sit down three course meal! So I purchased a thermos box and packed him a hot lunch for many years. His favorite one was to take to school: squid in their own ink — needless to say not a popular item to trade lunch! It is still one of his favorite dishes and he actually did partake of this batch. Alors, voilà la recipe for Joseph Mastantuono and for poet Jonathan Skinner who asked for it.

Calamars à l’Encre

5 lbs of squids cleaned, ink sacks set aside
1 medium chopped onion
1 peeled & seeded tomato
4 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1/2 bottle of red wine —French Languedoc or Spanish—
1/3 cup of  Spanish Brandy
3 tablespoons Arrowroot flour ( or two of regular flour)
1/2 cup of chopped parsley for garnish

– Cut the cleaned and drained squid cones into rings —  I don’t cut the tentacles though some people do and I cut the rings about 1 inch thick.

-Warm a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add the onions, cook gently until slightly golden.

-Meanwhile prepare your ink:

with a pestle (or the back of a spoon) apply pressure to the sacks to force the ink through the mesh of the strainer. Pour the red wine over the sacks in the strainer and keep working until you have extracted the ink from the bags. Save.

-Add the cut & dried squid to the skillet, mix well with the onions. Once the squid start getting opaque and stiffen add the Brandy and flambé safely (if you don’t flambé is not a big deal). Mix well.

– Add garlic, tomato & mix well.

-Add ink with wine, mix well.

-Sprinkle the three table spoons of arrowroot on top. Mix very well.

-Add more wine, if needed, so that liquid covers squid to 3/4.

-Bring to a gentle boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or so. Your squid have to be very tender.

I like serving it with saffron rice, but white rice is good too.
Bon Appétit! And please report if you make it.



Clean your Squid! Keep the Ink! — I

Yes, you can buy clean squid but then you are depriving yourself of what will give you one of the most exquisite dishes: Calamare en su Tinta or Squid in its own ink. You can also buy the ink in a little plastic bag and make the sauce from that… but it ain’t the same, trust me. Most of the time it gets too black and too strong. If you use what comes with the creatures you will cook, it is always the perfect amount. Yes! Cleaning squid can be tedious and time consuming, so why not have a  squid cleaning party? I am providing you all with the necessary info to do it yourself. Below, there is a video, though I am also including a step-by-step with pictures.

1- Make sure you buy very fresh squid. I do not like to use the frozen squids for this purpose. I am lucky enough to have fresh ones available at the Bay Ridge Green Market. I order them a few days in advance and request very fresh ones. Susana —who works for Glen at American Seafood stand— is always eager to please her customers. She also shares great Peruvian recipes that I still need to try. Let’s begin the cleaning process:

Cleaning Squids

1- Grasp the tail section firmly in your hand and grab the head section below the eyes as shown in the picture. Pull gently but firmly in order to detach the inside as deep as possible.


Cleaning

2- Find the silvery ink bag located in the inner section of what you pull from the squid. Gently lift it, detach it and save it in a stainer.


Cleaning Squids

3- Turn the tentacles upside down and apply pressure between the eyes in order to pop out the beak


Cleaning

4- Hold the head part of the squid below the eyes and with a sharp knife cut  the tentacles below the eyes, being careful not to cut into the eyes. Rinse and place into a colander (the tentacles, not the eyes…)


Cleaning Squids

5- From the edge of the body part remove the pen shaped spine that looks like plastic. They can be saved to make fun collage projects with kids.


Cleaning

6- Peel the reddish outer membrane away, remove & discard. You can also peel the fins & also save them. Wash the body, squeeze to make sure nothing left inside. If you are very picky you can turn the inside out to make sure it is very clean — I don’t do that. Once clean, reserve in the colander with the tentacles.

Now the video: Don’t have great expectation — Miles shot it with my very low end camera, so that’s the best we could do. I think it will help. Watch it a couple of time before you try working the squid, it will help and give you confidence. At first you might break an ink bag or two, not a big deal, just clean up in between. Next post will be the recipe for the Calamari in the Ink, but once the cleaning is done it’s a breeze. O! One more thing:  5lbs  of  squid for 10 people should do it.