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Foods

Squid
Why Eat It
Shopping
Storage
Preparation


Why Eat It

More streamlined than its relative the octopus, this cephalopod is netted on both coasts and is sometimes marketed as "calamari," its Italian name. The squid's hollow body (or mantle), usually ivory-colored with purplish patches, is perfect for stuffing once it has been cleaned and the head removed. In addition, the mantle (also called the tube) may be lightly scored and cut crosswise into rings or bite-size pieces for sauteing, poaching, steaming, or for adding to sauces, soups, or stews. The tentacles can be chopped into pieces and eaten as well. Squid is tender, with a mild flavor. It contains a sac of brownish-black ink (used as protective camouflage in its ocean habitat); some recipes call for the ink to be used in cooking the squid.

Squid is sold both whole and dressed, either fresh or frozen, and is available all year. It is one of the few types of seafood high in cholesterol--a 3 1/2 ounce uncooked portion has about 233 milligrams of cholesterol.

Shopping

Shop for squid as you would for fish. Be sure they smell fresh, not fishy, and look moist and shiny. If buying them whole, the eyes should be bright, not cloudy.

Storage

Possibly the most perishable of all foodstuffs, any type of shellfish is highly susceptible to bacterial contamination and growth once it dies or gets too warm. Therefore, when you buy shellfish, it is imperative to keep it cold until you are ready to cook and serve it. If you've brought it home packed in a plastic bag, remove it from the bag and wash and dry it. Place in a container that will hold it in a single layer and cover. Keep in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Squid may be kept frozen up to three months.

Preparation

Squid is sold fresh or frozen, dressed and ready to cook or whole. To prepare whole squid, remove the transparent penlike cartilage from inside the squid. With your hands, pull the head from the body. With a knife, cut the tentacles from the head just below the eyes; discard the head. Remove and discard the hard beaklike mouth from the center of the body. Rinse well and pat dry before using.

Squid should either be cooked very quickly, or slowly. For frying, squid is cooked very quickly and should emerge tender and crisp. Squid can also be braised or stewed at 350°F.

Braising: cut the body into sections or rings, leave the tentacles whole. Braise in tomato sauce, Asian black bean sauce, or any strongly flavored broth.

For Braised Stuffed Squid: leave the body whole (you may chop the tentacles to use as part of the stuffing). Fill the cavity with your favorite stuffing mixture or a combination of rice, pine nuts, raisins, spinach, and chopped tentacles and braise it in a mixture of tomatoes, broth, and white wine. Secure the stuffed squid with toothpicks to hold the stuffing in place. Braised stuffed squid will cook in about one hour, depending upon the size of the squid.

Frying: cut the body into rings or sections and leave the tentacles whole unless they are very long (if they're very long, cut them in half). Wash and pat dry. Dip in a flour batter and deep fry or dust with flour and saute quickly in hot oil.


Date Published: 04/21/2005
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