Saturday, November 11, 2006

Recipe 13: Braised Stuffed Calamari

I love seafood. But inflation is really starting to annoy me. With shrimp, good fish and scallops of servable quality all selling from $15 to $30 a pound these days I am embarking on a mission to begin cooking some amazing meals with much less expensive seafood. A few months ago I started experimenting with fresh trout (~$3.99 a pound) dusted with Wondra flour and pan roasted in butter. Wonderful. Yesterday I was at Whole Foods and beautiful fresh calamari was only $6.99 a pound. This was the inspiration for our next recipe.

From my research I learned that braised stuffed calamari is a classic Italian preparation near the Romagna region. I love ordering calamari in restaurants and we have had some amazing grilled calamari dishes recently at nicer Mediterranean restaurants. But I tend to shy away from cooking with it at home given the need to cook it very quickly at a very high heat else its rubbery and unpalatable texture. However, last weekend, three great friends spent the weekend with us and we made a seafood stew in which the calamari was cooked for over an hour at a low simmer. The resulting squid was very tender and piqued my interest in slow cooking more of this very affordable seafood.

This recipe is a bit of a hybrid between Biba Caggiano’s and Judy Rodgers’. The trick with braising calamari seems to be in slow cooking it for almost an hour until fork tender. I have never ordered this dish in a restaurant but it sounds comforting and delicious and reminds me of a squid adobo (braise using vinegar, garlic and soy sauce) my grandmother used to make. I hope everyone here likes squid!

1 pound whole squid body
1 pound squid tentacles
Italian parsley
Few garlic cloves
2-3 anchovy fillets, minced
1/3 – 1/2 C parmigiano-reggiano
1/3 C dried bread crumbs
Olive oil
Small onion
1/2 C dry white wine
Can of San Marzano tomatoes

Chop tentacles very fine by hand or in a processor and mix with parsley, garlic, anchovies, parm, bread crumbs, red pepper and olive oil and season to taste. If too dry, add more olive oil. Fill each squid body with the filling (but only fill half-full as the filling will expand during cooking). Some recipes call for an egg to bind the filling. Others don’t. Your call on whether you want to use it; I will likely not use it so not to dilute the calamari flavor of the filling. Some grated lemon zest added to the filling might also be nice. Close openings of the bodies with wooden toothpicks.

In a skillet that can accommodate all the squid in a single layer, cook onions, parsley and garlic and a squeeze of some lemon juice. If you are in the mood, add diced fennel, leeks or capers to the onion mixture (additive, not necessary). Add squid and season with salt/pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute or two.

Add wine and bring to a boil. Then add tomatoes. If you have the ink sac from the squid, place them in a strainer over the pan and pour a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the strainer, pressing to extract the ink from the sacs. Reduce to very low and simmer only turning the squid once or twice. Cook on low for just under an hour uncovered. Add more tomatoes if sauce gets too dry. Adjust seasonings to your liking.

If you wish, finish stew by mixing in spoonful of cooked lentils or blanched chard leaves. (again, additive but not necessary). Serve over white rice or polenta on a cold November night.


Blogger Elaine said...

Looking forward to visiting my favorite fish monger for some squid. I've neglected Dirk's Seafood in Chicago these past few months. Speaking of braising...just picked up your All About Braising cookbook at The Strand in NYC today. Can't wait to braise everything now.

11 November, 2006 22:47  
Blogger Elaine said...

Going to pick up a 2.5 lb box of frozen squid from Dirk's tomorrow. Really excited to make this.

17 November, 2006 16:39  
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