Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jer: Braised Stuffed Calamari

I've been home to cook a meal three nights since mid-November and we're leaving again early tomorrow morning on a three week voyage to Asia to spend the holidays with Pete's sister and her familly. Although I've been itching to cook (especially since its the season to be in one's kitchen) I just haven't been home long enough to do anything more than some quick pasta dishes and canned soup. What's a girl to do!

So when my good friend Julie who had me and another dear friend over for a holiday dinner last weekend I wanted to hug her when she said "Let's make the braised stuffed calamari you need to make for your cooking group!" Hooray. A fun holiday evening with friends and a chance to try this dish that I've wanted to test out in the kitchen for more than a month.

We kept the tomatoes chunky and served it like a stew. We liked the flavors and the texture very much and thought it was both different and extremely hearty on a cold winter's night. Next time I'll ask for the ink sacs as I think it would be very interesting with some of the ink pressed into the braising liquid - both from a flavor standpoint as well as from a color standpoint.

When Julie and I (and another dear friend) were in Paris a few weeks ago we had this amazing dinner at a new Basque-French restaurant in the 7th called L'Ami Jean where we had a wonderful pairing of a grilled calamari with a creamy mushroom polenta. That meal was sublime (and interestingly enough was mentioned in this month's Food & Wine) - inventive and not a tourist in sight! In fact, this nice french couple leaned over during our meal and asked us how we had heard about the restaurant as although he thinks its the best restaurant in town its so new that many Parisians don't even know about it! So in honor of that incredible meal we decided to pair the braised calamari with polenta topped with wild roasted mushrooms.

And we started this wonderful holiday feast with what must be my current favorite salad - butter lettuce with bright radishes and very strong blue cheese tossed in a simple oil and vinegar emulsion. I love both the contrast of the colors which I find very holiday-esque as well as the flavors (the ease of preparing is also a big plus!)

Happy holidays Elaine, Cath, Kate and Ashley - I'm looking forward to a 2007 filled with more adventures with you in the kitchen!