5.23.2013

SQUID INK // the local food report


I was standing down at the docks at Stage Harbor the other day, hanging around with a microphone when something very exciting happened. My friend Shannon announced that she and her boyfriend Russell had come up with a recipe for a squid ink martini! They had my attention immediately.

Shannon and Russell help her family run a CSF, or Community Supported Fishery. It's a catch share program, and this year customers haven't been getting much squid. Usually there's tons of squid by now, Shannon says, but this year the water's been cold and it's been a slow season. So she and Russell are trying to help share-holders make the most of what little squid they do get, and part of that is using the ink.

I've eaten squid before, and even squid ink pasta, but I've never heard of a squid ink martini. Apparently squid ink has a very briny, slightly metallic taste that lends itself well to vodka and triple sec—sort of like a dirty martini without the olives.


The ink sac is the little silvery thing you see right there. It's tiny—maybe two or three centimeters long—and it ruptures easily. If you want to save it, you have to clean the squid very carefully. Alex gave me a tutorial the other day.

First you strip the wings from the body. Get your thumb in between the wings and the body and that will help you separate the wings from the body and begin peeling the skin off. 

Next grab just above the eyeballs and slowly pull the guts from the body. If you do it right everything should come sliding out, even the cartilage. If the cartilage doesn't come out of the body, go back in and pull it out, slow and steady. If you're not sure what the cartilage is, it's the long, thin clear strip that looks and feels like plastic.



Rinse out the hollow body tube and set it aside. 


Now squeeze the eyeballs out of the head and remove the beak (more cartilage). You will be left with tentacles.


Carefully extract the ink sac from the guts. As you can see from the bottom photo, it's easy to rupture.



Now you have squid and squid ink. The guts and cartilage can go in the compost. You can cook the squid up into something delicious. (We like stuffed squid.) You can make a squid ink martini, or you can make Nancy Civetta's Risotto Nero alla Fiorentina. If that sounds good, keep reading.

Nancy is a member of the CSF and also works for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's Association. She was on the docks when I was talking with Shannon and Russell the other day, and after requesting squid ink martinis at the next pick-up, she told me about what she does with squid ink.

Turns out, she lived in Italy for a long time, and what they like to do with there is make a squid ink risotto. You use both the squid and the ink, which is nice since you can't really get one without the other. And best of all, it's delicious.

If I still haven't convinced you, consider this. Squid ink is naturally rich in glutamane, the same amino acid found in fish sauce (yum) and imitated synthetically as MSG. In other words, salty and delicious. And if you're looking for other recipes, try calamares en su tinta (squid stewed in their own ink—I once had the octopus version in Spain!) or squid ink pasta with spring asparagus. And for a riff on the squid ink martini...try the squid ink sour!

RISOTTO NERO ALLA FIORENTINA

This comes from the kitchen of Nancy Civetta in Wellfleet and is a delicious way to use the whole squid.

1 plus pounds dirty squid, cleaned and cut into rings and tentacles — save the ink sacs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, or more, as needed
3 cups of fish stock
salt and pepper to taste

Put the ink sacs in a shallow bowl and add a little hot water. Mash to break them up and set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in butter and olive oil on medium heat. Once the onion has softened, add the rice and cook for a bit, stirring frequently. When the rice starts sticking, add white wine to coat the bottom of the pan and let it evaporate, stirring. Then being adding the fish stock a ladleful at a time until it's absorbed. Adjust the heat so the rice just simmers. Stir frequently so the rice doesn't stick' always add a ladleful of stock when the rice starts to stick. It should take about 20 minutes to cook.

Keep tasting until the rice is done (al dente). Once the rice is cooked, add the squid and ink sacs and stir just until the ink has incorporated throughout the rice. Then turn off the burner and let the squid cook in the heat of the rice. Let it sit off the heat for a few minutes and stir in salt and pepper to taste. (No parmigiano!) Then buon appetito!

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.