When it’s summer around here, the grill and the wok both come out. They’re two incredible tools to cook light food with flavors that cut through the heat — and without making Courtney or I boil in the kitchen, either. On a lark, we saw these beautiful-looking, and cheap-as-anything squid at the local Japanese Marketplace. Now, neither of us knew the first thing about preparing squid, but it’s the kind of food that seems like either it takes 5 minutes or 5 hours to prepare, but nothing in the middle. So we picked it up and took it home.
So, squid takes about 5 minutes to prepare. Maybe a little longer if you’re cooking up a lot of little ones, like we did, but really not long at all. The first step is to clean the squid. I learned how from the Internet, so I’ve memorialized my process here too.
Step 1: Get yourself a little something to help with all the cooking ahead. My favorite helper is a dirty martini.
Step 2: Remove the head. To do this, grasp the head in one hand and the body in the other. I found it easier to hold the body from inside than from the tail; holding it that way made me feel like I was going to tear the body.
Step 3: Cut the tentacles off. They’re edible; save them. Throw away the head. A blog I found good directions on this at suggested that your dog would find the head delicious. Yours might; mine spit it on the floor, much to my wife’s consternation.
Note here that a number of sources on squid disassembly suggested that I squeeze the ink out from sacs in the head and reserve it at this stage. None of the squids I got had any particular amount of ink in them — except for one. That one, I cut into it and a gigantic arc of ink shot across the kitchen. Again much to my wife’s consternation. Again, the dog didn’t care.
Step 4: Squeeze out the guts. There’s just no nice way to say this step. There’s some sort of organs that look like scallops, as well as, well, let’s call it slime, inside the squid. Get it out by running the flat side of a knife down the squid from tail to the open end. I put my cutting board at the edge of the sink and basically just squeezed the junk into the sink.
Step 5: Remove the skin. This part is easier than it sounds. The skin is paper-thin, and, as you scrape your knife against the squid in step 4, you’ll tear it. Slide a finger inside this tear and delicately separate the skin from the body. About half the time the whole skin came off like a glove, the other half I had to scrape the remainders off with the knife.
Step 6: Remove the quill. The quill is a piece of cartilage that runs the length of the squid. I used one hand to separate the cartilage back inside the body, near the tail, and the other hand to pull at the tip. Almost every time it came out in one piece.
Step 7: Rinse under water. To make the slime go away.
Step 8: Chop as you please. I chopped it into rings, but strips are pretty typical for stir-fries, and you can also cut the body into two nice steaks.
Step 9: Heat the aromatics. Chop up a couple of inches of fresh ginger and 4 garlic cloves, heat them in some oil with chile flakes until very fragrant. The chiles don’t really make the dish spicy, but they brighten the flavor, just as they do in, say, a nice marinara.
Step 10: Add in some fresh vegetables. To highlight the fresh flavor of the squid, I didn’t load the dish up with a lot of vegetables. The Japanese market had delicious-looking oyster mushrooms and bok choy.
Step 11: Stir-fry and add sauce. Stir-fry and soften up the vegetables a bit, adding sauce and then stir-frying more. What sauce? Well, I used a pretty typical Thai sauce that I learned in a cooking class I took in Chiang Mai. It’s 1 part fish sauce, 1 part soy sauce, 1 part sugar, and 2 parts oyster sauce — although I replaced the 1 part sugar with 1/2 part agave.
After stir-frying the vegetables until slightly soft, add about a quarter cup of broth — I used dashi. This stretches out the sauce and keeps it from being too strong-flavored. Then throw in the squid and cook briefly — no more than 20 or 40 seconds. It’ll turn white almost immediately.
Step 12: Serve it forth! Probably the martini’s not the best accompaniment here.