Cooking Squid (Calamari)

Cooking Calamari or Squid

It wasn't too long ago that most Americans were squeamish about squid or calamari. But today, calamari is an increasingly popular restaurant dish, particularly when it is fried. A mild, sweet flavor and reasonable price have helped make squid more popular.

When choosing calamari, trust your nose. A delicate ocean scent is the most reliable indicator of freshness. Looks count too. Fresh squid looks firm and shiny. If the squid in your market is limp and dull, pass it by. Also, if it has not been cleaned, check the color of the mottled membrane covering it. It should be gray but not pink or purple. Squid freezes well, so if the fresh squid doesn't measure up, check the freezer section of your market. Purchasing cleaned squid will save you time, but remember that uncleaned squid is often half the price.

Squid is extremely perishable. Refrigerate it on a bed of ice until ready to use, and try to use it the same day you buy it. When cleaning, reach under the hood and pull out the innards, including the plastic like quill. Cut off the tentacles just beneath the eyes, and discard the quill, head and innards. Rinse out the hood under cold running water. Use the back of a paring knife to scrape the gray membrane off the hood. Cut off the 2 small wings on either side of the hood and reserve them. The cleaned hood can be sliced into rings or left whole for stuffing.

Calamari can be deep-fry, grill or stir-fry very quickly over high heat (no longer than 2 minutes), or braise it slowly over low heat for at least 1 hour for optimum tenderness. Any cooking time in between will make the squid tough.

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