Life accomplishment update — I learned how to clean squid! And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be, especially after perusing these instructions that, while helpfully clear and photographed, unhelpfully described the process as “ugly as sin and ten times as slimy.” I will agree that removing the beak was slightly “creepy,” as noted. I didn’t take any process shots because my hands were indeed pretty slimy. If you’re curious, hit the slideshow above for some slightly too real photos.
Benefits of cleaning like 20-30 little tiny squids mainly included feeling like a total badass in my kitchen and making sure that what I’m eating is, in fact, squid and not pork bung. Foodies will wax poetic about harvesting the ink, but when I saw the tiny volume of ink in each sac and also realized that I had no idea what to do with it all, I just scrapped that idea altogether. Sorry; am a bad nose-to-tail eater. Maybe if I get larger squid at some point that yield slightly more than a single drop of ink per slimy fellow, maybe then, I will try it. So send your most tantalizing squid ink recipes my way? The only things I can think of are pasta (nope; no pasta maker and no patience) and calamari cheesy rolls a la 85˚C.
That said, I liked this preparation, based off of a great one from Wild Greens and Sardines (via Food52). Using lots of green veggies and bright flavors like chile and lime offsets the brininess of the fish sauce and squid, and a little bit of brown sugar makes it kind of addicting. I tried to get some color on the squid for those delicious crispy bits — which turned out to be tough, since they release a lot of water when they meet the heat. Melissa Clark from NYT has some tips, and I’d recommend a heavy pan like cast iron for best results on that front.
~1 lb of calamari, cleaned
1 stalk of celery
~1 lb of green beans
Bunch of Thai basil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 small knob of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Thinly slice the celery and clean/trim the green beans. Mince (I grate it frozen, on a microplane) the ginger and garlic. Mix the fish sauce, mirin, lime juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Pluck the leaves off of the basil plant and set aside. With this recipe, things move fast and all at once, so I actually do all this prep work… usually I’m sort of prepare-as-you go, but this is an exception.
Generously oil a large, heavy pan and bring it over high heat. Wait until the oil is nearly smoking, and add the celery and green beans, and stir-fry quickly. When they are nearly cooked, add the chili flakes, ginger, and garlic, and stir fry until fragrant.
Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add a little more oil. Wait until it gets really hot, then add the squid, all at once, in a single layer. Let it sit for a minute to try to coax out a little color. After one minute, quickly incorporate with the vegetables and add the sauce. Stir fry for about 30 more seconds, mixing in the basil at the last moment. Serve hot.