Squid Pro Quo II

On Deck Aboard Ship


GUEST: A Boat Captain

[a low boat horn sounds]

AB: Well thanks for having me aboard, Captain.
BOAT CAPTAIN: Whatever. Your check cleared. That's all that matters.
AB: Ahh, good, good, good. So, this is a real, live, squid ship.
BC: Aye, but this ain't no pleasure cruise, Mr. Brown. Why are you so eager to ship out on a hard-working research vessel?
AB: Well, Captain, the truth is I feel like I owe a debt to squid. See, I work on this cooking show, and, a long, long time ago, we did an episode about squid†.
BC: I've heard of people-eating squid. Where I'm from, they call that "bait".
AB: Well, everything's bait to something. Anyway, I got so caught up in doing these cutesy little skits, that I hardly did any cooking. I didn't even make the world's most popular restaurant appetizer.
BC: Ahhh, spicy wings. I love 'em!
AB: [mouths words, "Yeah, me too."] I'm talking about calamari. Calamari.
BC: Isn't that a Hindu God?
AB: No, I don't – actually, now that you mention it, I think it might be. It's not important. What is is that squid is probably the most culinarily versatile critter on the entire planet, and I mean to do it justice.
BC: Whatever. Be dark soon. Best get to your quarters, Mr. Brown, and start cooking up some ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

The Galley

GUEST: Tina Miller-Way, Professor of Marine Science

    [looking around] Wow, spacious. You know, squid have always been big favorites in the international market, but until recently, I would bet that most Americans would side with our captain.

AB: [picks up am intercom device] Mayday! Mayday!

    Oh well. Luckily, back in the '90's, calamari crashed our shore converting many a squid phobic into squid fans. I have to wonder, what's the best time of day to catch a calamari anyway?

TINA MILLER-WAY: Well, nighttime, of course.
AB: Oh yeah?
TMW: Yeah. You know, when the moon is full, some species congregate at the surface at night. Then that makes them easy prey for fishermen.
AB: Oh.
TMW: You must be a new cook. Mr. Brown, is it?
AB: Oh, yeah, absolutely, and you must the, the squid doctor. Just tell me something. Will an artificial moon work?
TMW: In a sense. The 19th century Chinese immigrants used to use the paper lanterns when they were fishing for squid in Monterey Bay.
AB: You don't say.
TMW: Oh yeah. Nowadays, we don't use paper lanterns. We use big banks of massive lights.
AB: That's absolutely fascinating.
TMW: Squid are pretty cool creatures. Well, it's good to have you aboard.
AB: Oh, thanks.
TMW: See you later.
AB: Get to work! I'll get to work.

    Lanterns ...

On Deck

    [holding a lantern over the water] Come on, come on squeedy squeedy squeedy. That's it, come to the light. Jump into a pretty net. Come on.

TMW: What are you doing?
AB: Catching dinner. What are you doing?
TMW: Watching you mess up my research [walks away]

     She seems kind of uptight, doesn't she?

The Galley

BC: [escorting AB to the galley] I'll not have you antagonizing my client, Mr. Brown. And I'll thank you to stay in the galley until further notice.
AB: Fine. [BC walks off, AB makes a face at him]

    So I'm locked up in another kitchen for another show. Well, I might as well find out what they've got to eat around here.

    [reads note on fridge] Hah hah. [crumples up the paper, and tosses it aside]


    Let's see [opens the refrigerator door] Well, would you look at this. The cabinet of Doctor Calamari. Behold, Loligo opalescens, a.k.a. Pacific Market Squid. This is the squid you will most often get when you get squid in western states.

Loligo Opalescens
"Market Squid"

    Now, here we have the common eastern varieties, the Atlantic Long-Finned, and Short-Finned, which pretty much tastes exactly the same. Although, I have been told that the Short-Finned are considered by some to be a little bit more on the chewy side.

Loligo Pealei

Loligo Illecebrosus

    Now I like to buy squid whole, whenever I can, but only when I know that I'm going to cook them within hours. Even on ice or in a cold refrigerator, high-protein squid will decompose quicker than Mozart with an electric eraser. Ha ha. That is why, cleaned, cut, frozen squid are the standard of the restaurant industry here in the United States. And that's okay by me, because squid freezes, and in some cases, even refreezes fabulously. But if you are committed to working with fresh, you're going to want to buy the freshest you can get. So, use your nose. Odds are, if they smell stinky with any traces of ammonia, you will want to pass. I'm told that color can also be an indicator of freshness. You want the skin to be slimy, not dry, and the color should be dark and mottled, never pink. You know, I've heard these little guys can actually change color in their lives. How? How should I know?

TMW: Chromatophores.
AB: Chromatophores?
TMW: Yeah. Um, hold it right there. I'll be right back.

AB: [looking at a balloon model] Did you make this yourself?
TMW: Yeah. What do you think?
AB: I think it's sweet. It's super-sweet. What is it?
TMW: It's a model of squid skin.
AB: Oh. What are the balloons?
TMW: The balloons represent chromatophores. They're color-containing cells, and when they expand, the color disperses over a wider area. Go ahead, try it.
AB: Oh. [opens a gas line, which inflates some of the balloons] Like that?
TMW: Yeah.
AB: So now we've got an orange squid?
TMW: Yeah, but try the blue.
AB: Okay [inflates the blue balloons] He's been listening to Miles Davis. I got it. So now we combine to make whole new color.
TMW: Right. And the yellow.
AB: [inflates the yellow balloons] Sweet. So, why would a squid want to do this?
TMW: It has a whole variety of uses. They can use them in camouflage, but they can also use them in finding a mate.
AB: Yeah, squid bling, that's cool. Um, what color would a squid chick dig?
TMW: Flashing colors.
AB: Flashing? Red or blue?
TMW: Reddish.
AB: Reddish. Cool. Well, does the color affect the flavor?
TMW: No, the skin itself doesn't seem to have any taste to it, but it can be kind of chewy.
AB: Which is why we take it off. Thanks for the tip. Take your model and get back to work.

The word calamari comes from the Latin word calamus, or "reed pen".

The Galley

    Let us examine today's dinner. Let's see. Here we have the tube, the fins, the head in the middle. Kind of odd, but that's the way it is. There are the two eyes, and then of course, the tentacles here. Now our first cut is going to be to separate the tentacles from the head. So just kind of feel around. There will be a little lump where the beak is, and cut. Now, if you just squeeze the tentacle, out will pop – there, the beak. Now believe it or not, this is the only part of the squid that is not digestible. And in fact, the first evidence that scientists had, of giant squids were finding beaks the size of human heads inside the stomachs of sperm whales. That's really cool, huh?
    Okay, next, just move your fingers up into the tube, get hold of the head, and gently pull; and just pull straight out. There. Now there's one more part to remove. Reach in, and you'll feel something that's kind of plastic-y. Pull that out. And there you have the quill. Believe it or not, that is the closest thing that a squid has to a bone. Kind of reminds me of sheet gelatin, only I don't think we can make dessert out of it.
    Now, usually, the skin is removed. And for that, I just kind of get a little incision going and then you can just pull it off quite easily. And there you have it. Now some people like to pull off the fins. I usually leave them on, but it's not that hard. [making fun] Pope hat, pope hat!
    Anyway, to turn this into calamari, all you have to do is cut this into narrow rings with either scissors, or a sharp knife. Of course, for calamari, we'll need a cooking medium.

    A crucial key to calamari cooking is heat control. It all begins with a heavy Dutch oven in the four to five-quart range. Why a Dutch oven? Because it's cast iron, and it will hold heat. And we're going to put that over medium heat, and then add two quarts of peanut oil, which I like for its high smoke point and neutral flavor. We're going to bring this up to 375 degrees. How will we know? Because we're going to use one of these [candy thermometer]. Just slide that on. There. Back to the squid!

2 Quarts Peanut Oil

375 Degrees

    As for fabrication, we will take each of the tentacle sections and slice those in half so that they do not overwhelm the palate. As for the tubes, knock those down into, maybe a third to half-inch slices, thusly. If you want to knock a little fishiness off your squid, just give it a quick bath in cold water. Just make sure that you dry it thoroughly before you attempt to coat and cook. As far as getting rid of this old water, well, let's see [dumps the rinse water into a bucket under the sink] 1 Pound Squid Tubes and Tentacles

    Now batter and breading sticks better to dried squid, so you might as well go ahead and use the spinner in the way it was intended. There we go. Bone dry and ready for batter.
    Many's a batch of calamari that sunk like a rock under a dumpling-like load of breading. Whether you prefer the batter coating or the simple dredge, the goal is the same, lightness.



    Now for those who want just a wee crunch, we'll take the dry approach. We have the dredge, containing one-half cup of all-purpose flour, and one-half cup of plain cornmeal. Not grits, not cornbread mix, okay. Now just whisk together, and that's pretty much it.
    For those who prefer a little more calamari coverage, we will assemble a batter, thusly. We have here one cup of ice water. We'll get that ice out. Into that goes one cup of all-purpose flour and whisk to combine. Don't worry, there are going to be a couple of little lumps. No big deal. Then we're going to go in with one egg. There. Now this is essentially a tempura batter, only without the rice flour. Now using ice water will keep the batter light, by delaying the gelatinization of starch in the flour, and that will keep the batter from absorbing too much oil. Since you want this light and thin, do not mix the batter until you are ready to do your cooking. This is not the kind of thing that you can make ahead.
1/2 Cup
   All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Plain
1 Cup Ice Water
1 Cup All-Purpose
1 Whole Egg

    And now we fry. We will begin with the dry dredge version. The only other piece of equipment we must have, one of these [kitchen spiders]. We will begin with a very small handful of squid. You don't want to overload the pan. A bit of dredge action, fish that out with the spider, and you want to get as much of the dredge off as possible so we don't foul the oil. There we go. We are at 375, so in we go. Notice I'm doing this by hand, a piece at a time, not just dumping it in there. If you just dump it, it will turn into a crispy golf ball. There.
    Now as far as time goes, we're talking probably 45 seconds to a minute, tops. That is, if you are monitoring your heat correctly. We're not looking for a deep brown, just a light golden. Anything darker than that will overwhelm the flavor of the calamari.
    Time to evacuate. We scoop, and move over to our clever draining device which, of course, is nothing but a cooling rack, turned upside down on a piece of newspaper on a half sheet pan. A little seasoning while the squid is still hot. Some salt, and a little black pepper.
    Now you may consume that while you are letting your oil come back up to heat, because you do not want to put in the next batch if the oil is not at 375.

Some squid can swim at over 23 miles per hour. (but not this one)

The Galley

    [working on the wet approach] Now I like to keep the squid as dry as possible, so I set that on a towel, inside a bowl, before evacuating the squid in small batches to the batter. Just kind of punch it down with my spider there. And into the oil. Again, one piece at a time or you'll end up with a big old golf ball of squid. Not that that would be a bad thing.
    One minute later, and the squid is ready to come out. You'll need either a second spider or a slotted spoon, to get that out. Remember, the other one's got batter all over it. A little salt and pepper and you're ready to serve.

At The Galley Door

BC: [tasting the calamari] Mmmm, mighty tasty bait you made there, Mr. Brown.
AB: Well, I'm glad you like it. Can I come out now?
BC: Nope. Keep cooking. [walks off]
AB: [muttering to himself] Keep cooking. Aye aye, Captain ... Queeg. Man made off with my appetizer. Hey, how about a nice squid salad.

The Galley

    Now let's see. If only we had about a pound and a half of assorted squid parts. [reaches into the refrigerator, and grabs a container] Feels about right! But this time instead of cutting the tubes into rings, we well split them down the middle first, and then cut crosswise, creating half-inch to one-inch long strips.

1 1/2 Pounds Squid,
    Tubes & Tentacles

    To the pure squid, bring a half of an inch of water to a boil and just spread the squid out on a collapsible steamer basket, like that. Set it inside, drop the heat to low, just to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the squid is done, but tender. We're talking anywhere from two to four minutes. Not more than four, okay?
    Our time is up and our squid are [tastes] ... perfect. But they will not stay like that for long. Even if you remove them from this heat, they will continue to cook potentially to a rubber-like state. So we will evacuate these to a nice, icy bath.

    Deposit into your favorite large mixing bowl, two tablespoons each fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil, an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a quarter teaspoon of toasted, ground cumin, three quarters of a teaspoon of salt ... think that's about right ... a quarter teaspoon of black pepper, one quarter cup of chopped cilantro, two tablespoons of capers, drained, a quarter of a cup of finely chopped red onions, and three quarters of a cup of seeded, chopped tomatoes. Let's just dump in the squid, and use the old shake method, followed by the old manual thing [mixes with his hands]. There. Now cover this, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

2 Tbs. Each Freshly
    Squeezed Lemon Juice &
    Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp. Toasted Cumin
3/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Freshly Ground
    Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh
    Cilantro &
2 Tbs. Capers, Drained
1/4 Cup Chopped Red
    Onion &
3/4 Cup Seeded, Chopped

On Deck

BC: Mmmm, that's good eatin'. Sure you don't want some, doc?
TMW: No thanks. I study them; I don't eat them. [the boat shakes] What was that?
BC: I don't know. But I intend to find out.

[camera pans down to show the tentacle
of a giant squid reaching in to the ship]

The Galley

AB: Hey, Captain, steady as she goes, if you please. Some of us are trying to cook down here.

    Hey, remember how I said that squid should be cooked quickly, lest it attains kind of an inner tube-like texture? Well, there's actually more to the story. If they're cooked long enough, those tough fibers will eventually break down and tenderness will return. Now obviously, that's not going to do us any good in a deep fryer. But in a relatively cool, moist environment such as a braise, it can be very powerful magic indeed. And since we're going to take advantage of one of the peculiar particularities of squid, why not take advantage of another one and do a little bit of stuffing?

[off camera, screaming sounds are heard above]

    And as far as stuffing goes, why not use some shrimp, and what the heck, more squid. Come on.

    So we have our ten sets of squid tentacles. Would that be a clutch or a pride of tentacles? I don't know. It doesn't matter. It goes into the food processor, along with the two ounces of raw shrimp meat. Now we're just going to process this just for a few seconds. We're not looking to create a smooth mousse here, more like kind of a lumpy paste. There. Have a look. Yep, that's what we're looking for right there. This will go into the refrigerator.

Tentacles From 10 Squid
2 Ounces Peeled & Deveined
    Raw Shrimp

    Meanwhile, place a sauté pan over medium heat. Then add a tablespoon of olive oil and a quarter cup of finely chopped onions. We're going to follow that with a half teaspoon of kosher salt. And about a minute later, a clove of minced garlic. And let that cook one to two minutes, but don't let it brown.

1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Clove Garlic, Minced

On Deck

BC: Now where has that beasty gone and gotten to? [a giant squid tentacle attacks the boat captain]

No real humongous, monster squid were
harmed during the filming of this episode.

The Galley

    Turn your freshly sweated aromatics out into your mixing bowl, and add a quarter of a cup of dried bread crumbs. Now this is for texture, and the breadcrumbs will also kind of soak up all the flavorful liquids that will be generated during the cooking process. To that we add two teaspoons each, fresh, chopped ginger, and grated lemon zest. On top of that, two tablespoons of finely chopped tomato, and a teaspoon of chopped parsley. Now we'll give that a little toss. There.

1/4 Cup Dried Breadcrumbs
2 tsp. Fresh Chopped Ginger
2 tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
2 Tbs. Finely Chopped
1 tsp. Freshly Chopped
    Now, time for the paste. We'll just dump that right out. There. Now you're going to have to mash that around  to get it to combine properly. Oooh, almost forgot the pepper. A quarter of a teaspoon, black pepper. There. 1/4 tsp. Freshly Ground
    Black Pepper

    Well obviously, we're going to need a little bit of help getting this thick goo into those tiny little holes on the squid tubes. Now we could use a fancy schmantzy pastry bag or piping bag. But I don't see any reason to do that when we have plastic zip-top bags laying around. I like to use freezer bags for this because they tend to be a little more on the sturdy side. So just grab a knife, and cut off one corner. Then open up the bag and fill. There we go. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible, and we are ready to pipe. Now we need our tubes.

    [AB listens to a sound from the sea] Whale song? Huh. Anyway, when looking for a squid to stuff you don't want to get the tubes too large. They have a tendency to split open during cooking if you do. So go with three to five inches long, and I've got [counts], ten of them here. And that is perfect for one batch. 10 (3-5 inch) Squid Tubes

     Now there are a lot of recipes out there for stuffed squid. They call for all kinds of elaborate devices, to keep the little boogers closed during the cooking process. Toothpicks, skewers, little pieces of string, you name it. None of these are necessary, because the squid itself wants to help us. You see, when the meat cooks, it tends to curl. But it usually curls outward. By taking something like the end of a chopstick or a spoon, and turning the tube inside out, we can basically make it a self-sealing container.
    Now, as for the piping, just lay the tube across your hand, like this, poke open the hole, insert nozzle, and squeeze, but don't squeeze too much. You're going to be tempted to fill this thing to the brim. If you do, the stuffing is going to expand when it cooks, and rip open the side of the squid. That's not good. They're about half full. Pinch it off, thusly. Lay it over, so the seam is on the bottom, and repeat until you are done.

On Deck

TMW: [on the deck, speaking through a port hole, to AB] Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown! Have you seen the Captain?
AB: [not looking at TMW] I haven't seen anyone, because I never get to leave the galley
TMW: [the giant squid sweeps TMW away] Ahhhhhhh ...
AB: Man, has that woman got a temper or what?

    Now once you've got your stuffed tubes laid out in the baking pan, time for a little sauce. There are a lot of options, but I would say that tomato sauce would be the best. Homemade, of course, superior. But around here, the canned will have to do. Two cups, please. And that should be just enough to fill this pan, and you want to be careful to evenly coat each one of your little squiddies.

2 Cups Prepared Or
    Homemade Tomato Sauce
    Now, cover with aluminum foil, and prepare to bake at 375 degrees, for 30 minutes. Middle of the oven will be just fine.

375 Degrees

Door Way of Galley

AB: Dinner's ready. Come and get it!

    [no one responds] Where is everybody on this boat?
    You know, I realize that squid often play starring roles in our deepest, darkest, most slithery nightmares. But here in this galley, squid is a mighty good friend of mine. After all, it's flavorful, it's versatile, it's healthy, and scientists say that the ocean is jam-packed full of the little critters. So feel free to consume with guiltless gusto.
    [giant squid rises up in the background, both eyes look through the portholes] I'm Alton Brown, and I'm ... I'm "Good Eats"?


    [continuing from scene above, tentacle of giant squid tries to touch AB's plate of food, AB stabs the tentacle with his fork] Get out of my food, you freak. Cut.

†Squid Pro Quo

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010