Today is a rainy day; it has rained for two days…in biblical proportions I am told. What a perfect day to muse on a favorite pastime. I have to thank the persons who supplied me with the photographs….I am useless with a camera; besides, I am too busy feeding them…you know who you are…
It is August, and the squid are running. They are cheap and absolutely delicious. If you ask the fish monger he will clean them for you, I prefer to clean them myself. It is a little time-consuming, but well worth the effort. There is a side benefit to cleaning them. You can make shiokara if you are so inclined. Try to choose larger squid, the body at least four inches long. The key to cleaning squid is commitment. You must not be afraid to get into it, literally. First, take the head, eyes, and tentacles, and pull away from the body. The fresher the squid the easier it will be. Set aside and continue with all the squid you have. Once that is done, you need to reach into the body cavity and pull out, with your fingers, any and all soft inside guts-like stuff. You also need to remove the clear quill. A trick is to press from the tip of the cone to the opening, like you were trying to get the last bit of toothpaste from a tube. Reserve the guts if you are considering making the shiokara mentioned above, or discard and move on. It is very important to remove the red/purple skin from the body. The darker the skin, the fresher the squid, and the easier it is to remove. Use your fingernail, and gently pry the skin from the top of the cone down to the opening. It should come away easily. Be careful not to tear away the fins that are attached to the body. They are the best part when grilled, because they get a little charred, and have a crunchy texture. This takes patience. Pour yourself a glass of wine. When the bodies are all clean, you can rinse them under water and then pat them dry. I don’t bother. I figure that any little bits left inside just add flavor.
The next task is to clean the head sac and tentacles. It takes some practice to get the motion, or coup de main, and I guarantee you will mess up a few times, but that is the fun. Take the head and tentacles in one hand, and with your index and thumb, find the spot just below the eyes. You can pinch them off and throw away the eyes, guts and ink sac. Turn the tentacles inside out, and you will see a small ball the size of a marble. This is the mouth and beak. Pinch that away as well, and you are done.
I have been on an Asian kick for a while, and thought it would be fun to make a grilled squid dish Thai style. Score the squid lightly with a sharp knife. Do not cut through the body. In a platter arrange the bodies and tentacles, and grate some fresh ginger over them. Add some fish sauce, fresh lime juice, garlic, olive oil, Thai chili peppers (chopped finely), Thai basil coarsely chopped, black pepper, and let sit for half-an-hour to an hour. I keep the tentacles to one side because they cook differently than the bodies and it is easier to get them onto the grill. Maybe I have slight OCD…
I have found that grilling is about trust. Get to know your grill, and love it. One thing I notice when observing cooks who are unsure of themselves is that they tend to play with the food as it is cooking. Too much fiddling does not allow for proper grill marks, and well…proper cooking. Pour yourself another glass of wine and let it cook! Squid are funny little creatures; you either want to cook them for three to seven minutes, or for an hour or more. In this case we are looking for short and hot. Get the grill hot to at least 500 degrees. I use a three to five second rule. Hold your hand over the coals palm down; you shouldn’t be able to hold it for more than three to five seconds. Lay the squid bodies down carefully with the marinade mix. Don’t worry about the basil, it will char away mostly, and it adds flavor. Once the bodies are on, gently put the tentacles to one side and close the grill top. After a few minutes, and a sip of wine, turn the squid over with tongs. For the legs you need to move them around and as they curl up from the heat. Don’t let them fall through the grill into the coals. It makes me sad to lose even ONE. Let them cook another couple of minutes and then transfer them to a platter. Dress with fresh squeezed lime. We had grilled vegetables and rice to accompany them. Bok Choy is a great grilling vegetable along with Radicchio; I had some Daikon radishes too. Leave the greens slightly damp after washing so they steam as well as grill. I seasoned the vegetables with salt, pepper, some sesame oil, and garnished the Bok Coy with a little vegetarian oyster sauce. Pour your favorite beverage and enjoy!!!