This ain’t your Calamari
When I saw the recipe for Stuffed Squid With Wilted Salad in the New York Times, I thought I would keep my eye out for squid, haven’t had that for a while. I haven’t done stuffed squid since a party at my business partner’s house back in Boston, that would have been in the late â€˜80s.
My go-to squid recipe lately has been Squid with Black Pepper, Vietnamese Style by Mark Bittman, and I’ve done that several times, even for guests. So this would be a welcome change of pace.
What do you know? Shogun Fish at the Farmers Market on Saturday, had fresh caught local squid arrayed neatly in ziplock bags. Oh boy, now is the time.
Cleaning squid is messy, but not difficult. I cleaned them Sunday afternoon. There were 10 nice size squid in the bag.
Stuffed Squid With Wilted Salad
By Florence Fabricant
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
12 squid with tentacles, about 1 1/2 pounds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 heads Treviso or regular radicchio, quartered and cored
3 scallions, minced
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper.
1. Remove squid tentacles and chop fine. Rinse and dry squid bodies. Finely chop one head Treviso or radicchio. Shred second head in strips 1/2-inch wide; keep separate.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet. Add pancetta and cook over medium heat until starting to brown. Add garlic, ginger and tentacles, and sauté about a minute. Add chopped Treviso or radicchio and scallions. Cook until softened. Stir in bread crumbs and fish sauce, stir about a minute, add a tablespoon or two of water to release crumbs clinging to pan, and transfer to a bowl.
3. Stuff squid bodies with mixture, not packing too tightly and leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Secure with toothpick. Rub with 1 tablespoon oil. Preheat broiler to very hot.
4. Heat remaining oil in skillet, add shredded Treviso or radicchio, and cook until wilted. Stir in vinegar, toss, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a platter.
5. Broil squid close to source of heat 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, until barely browned. Place on bed of wilted salad and serve.
Nice idea, but it turned out to be a disaster. Not particularly the fault of the recipe, but due to my idiocy and equipment. Although I will blame the recipe for simply saying, “Stuff squid bodies with mixture, not packing too tightly and leaving 1/2-inch headroom,” with no warning whatsoever.
1) Stuffing a loose crumbly mixture into a limp, narrow squid body is like trying put a bucket of water back into the hose. Not impossible, but it takes time and patience. So my wife got grumpy about dinner being so late and I pretty much missed the Patriots-Ravens Monday Night Football game, which was great, with the Pats coming from behind to win. Who knew? Carol said I should have stuffed in the afternoon. You know what, she’s right. She reluctantly gave me a hand and by about 8:30, they were all stuffed and pretty.
2) The story accompanying the recipe (though not the recipe itself) did say, “The one trick to the recipe is to broil the stuffed squid as quickly as possible. That will keep them tender.”
Well, our broiler is not hot, even though we recently bought a new toaster-oven, which is wonderful for all things not broiled. Recipe says 2 minutes a side — which should be okay for squid — but they were far from done. I put them back for 2 more minutes a side, not done, 2 more minutes, done.
3) Squid were arrayed cheek by jowl in a round dish, toothpicks sealing the top. They were hard to turn over with the toothpicks sticking out. Should have broken off the toothpicks.
4) I like bitter greens, especially radicchio. One of my recipe favorites is Cod with Radicchio, White Beans and Lemon Vinaigrette from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano. That uses 3 heads radicchio to 2 cups of white beans. The bitterness of the radicchio plays off the creamy, lemony beans for a delightful dish.
This filling is strong tasting, with a taste like organ-meat, not a favorite taste of mine. The taste of the squid is almost wholly masked. The wilted salad almost saved the day, just like the Ravens almost beat the Patriots.
I could probably fix this dish — with the lessons learned and to fit my equipment (sear in a cast iron skillet, rather than broil) — but I think I’ll look for another stuffed squid recipe instead. I remember seeing one in a Jacques Pepin book.