Cephalopods like octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid are such cool creatures. Their incredibly high intelligence coupled with the ability to instantly change the color of their skin by modulating groups of cells called chromatophores make them some of the most mysterious denizens of the deep. One thing that is no mystery, however, is that they are absolutely delicious. Cooking squid is a great way to improve the nutrient density of your diet and your repertoire of seafood recipes.
I think squid is one of the most underrated seafood ingredients. Although squid are widely consumed in Mediterranean countries and East Asia, Americans never fully caught on. In fact, when I was a kid, I would have only thought of using squid as fishing bait. But when cooked properly, squid can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet!
Common methods of cooking squid
Cooking squid is not difficult but does require some strategy. Many chefs suggest that squid should be cooked very quickly over high heat or very slowly over low heat and that landing anywhere between these two extremes will turn your squid into rubber.
If you go the quick, high heat route, whole squid works well. After cleaning the squid, you can skewer together the tentacles and the tail tube to reinstate that sense of ‘togetherness’ in your dish. Simple seasonings go a long way in squid recipes. Lemon + olive oil is good, as would be a garlic + herb marinade slathered on just before grilling.
The low and slow method offers more opportunity for creativity. When I think about braised squid, my mind is immediately drawn to pasta. Squid braised in a tomato and wine sauce and finished with olive oil and basil is insanely delicious. Squid is also a great addition to seafood soups.
Another popular Mediterranean recipe is stuffed squid. The featured photo is of baked squid stuffed with bread, tomatoes, and herbs. This one does require some prep-work as the squid body should be cleaned and turned inside out before stuffing the squid to ensure the packed goodness stays inside while cooking. Stuffed squid can be simmered on the stovetop, baked in the oven, or even grilled over charcoal or wood to impart a smokey-esque flavor. Tomato sauce is again, a good cooking medium. As for what to stuff inside, rice and herbs or vegetables is standard. This is where to be creative though. Squid works well with a variety of flavors!
What about outside of the Mediterranean? Raw squid is a popular variant of sashimi in Japan. The flavor profile is much different than cooked squid. It’s kind of briny, slightly acidic and lands somewhere between chewy and rubbery. Ojingeo bokkeum is a Korean recipe of stir-fried squid and vegetables in a sweet and spicy sauce. I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but it looks delicious…the flavors look similar to another kind of Korean dish, teokbokki, which I can definitely attest to being delicious!
It’s worth mentioning that squid ink is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean food. It’s mostly used for adding a deep black color to pasta and risotto dishes. Squid ink can also impart a hint of bitter brininess to these dishes. Using something as obscure as squid ink for culinary purposes is a remarkable reflection of human ingenuity and questioning how these small but important aspects of food and culture originated and stuck with societies is incredibly interesting.
Another reason to eat squid is its excellent nutrition profile. A 3-ounce portion contains 13 grams of protein and only 1.2 grams of fat, making it fairly low in calories. Squid also contains riboflavin and vitamin B 12 but where it really shines is the high mineral content. A 3 oz portion contains 80% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for copper and 54% of the RDA for selenium.
I hope you are convinced to try cooking squid in your own kitchen sometime. As another plus, squid is not as expensive as some other seafood like crab or scallops but can be every bit as delicious!
Originally published at https://realfoodexplored.com on November 20, 2020.