Food You Should Be Eating: Squid

Image by Jess LanderImage by Jess LanderSquid (also known as calamari if you're squeamish or Italian) is a tasty, inexpensive, and environmentally-friendly food. Despite the fact that most people don't think of preparing squid at home, it is actually easy and remarkably versatile. If you don't keep to a diet that precludes them (vegetarian, kosher, tentacle-free, etc.), you should check them out. Here are some tips.

You don't need to clean your own squid. Many groceries carry frozen, pre-cleaned squid in their seafood section. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can clean them yourself. The big advantage with doing it yourself is that you can harvest the ink sacs (often used in pasta, risotto, or... well... ink).

Squid has a mild flavor that mixes well with acidic ingredients (vinegar, citrus, tomatoes). It is popularly served in a variety of ways: fried (calamari), raw (sashimi), marinated (ceviche), or in stews and braises. A local Chinese restaurant serves hot braised squid (slowly braised then deep-fried and covered in a General Tso's-like sauce), which is a favorite among several of my friends.

Many people are afraid of cooking squid, thinking that it will get tough and chewy. The trick to avoiding this is simple: either cook it very briefly or cook it for a long time. According to Harold McGee, at 140ºF (60ºC) the collagen layers in squid flesh contract, squeezing out moisture. It is best to either cook to a temperature lower than that or cook it for at least an hour so that the collagen will dissolve.

Squid naturally comes in an incredibly versatile shape. The main tubes that form their body, which is what we usually eat, taper to a closed point at one end. You can cut them length-wise for something approximating a filet, you can cut them cross-wise into rings, or you can leave them whole (in which case they are great for stuffing).

You can eat the tentacles, but the texture is different from the rest of the body. I usually remove them and save them for when I'm making a seafood broth. Some people relish eating tentacles, though.

Squid is a remarkably sustainable food source. Squid live short lives (the ones we commonly eat rarely live much longer than a year in the wild) and breed quickly. Unlike many types of sea life, they are currently thriving, and there is even danger of squid overpopulation in some areas.

Squid on Foodista

We need to eat them before they eat us.


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