Monday, April 5, 2010

Stuffed Squid

I have been meaning to make stuffed squid for a while now. I first had them at Monsoon, I think. That's a hyped restaurant in Capitol Hill, reportedly on a precipitous slide into the abyss of mediocrity. The squid was excellent, however, when I had it umpteen years ago. I recently had the dish again when Josh and I joined the Walkers on a double date night at Tamarind Tree. The TT is also a much-hyped restaurant, but it's in the International District (ID) and doesn't seem to be sliding anywhere except perhaps to the top of the It List. We had a great night overall, as the company, food, and drink were sublime. I spent a little too much time investigating the sublimity of the latter, if you get my drift. The babysitter called to see where we were! Oops.
So I was in Uwajimaya, saw a tray of the wee cephalopods and went for it. I have seen squid cleaned before - once by a fishmonger and once by Mario Batali. It looked simple. The instructions say "Peel the outer skin off the body. It comes off easily if you hold the two flaps. Put the two body parts in the saucepan ...." Those are the only words about cleaning these things? Oh, so it really must be simple. I'm sure you see where I am going with this. There I am holding the flaps (is it me, or does my left hand look like a talon?) and peeling the skin down the body. Once you start the skin at the tip of the body it actually is rather simple. I remembered that Mario just pulled the head off and then removed the weird plastic-like thing that must serve as some sort of pseudo-bone structure. So, I remove the head - pop - and pull out the plastic (no photos!). I wondered how the body could simply be empty, so I looked. Yeah, not empty. So I scoop out a bunch of slimy goop while pondering how I might alter my technique so I don't have to do that again. This was the difficult part. You have to pop the head off just so, while holding the body just so, so that all the goopy insides come out intact. Then you go after the pseudo-vertabrae. Finally, I cut the tentacles away from the "face," but wondered whether I was supposed to do that. I mean, I have never seen eyes in my calamari, but it seemed like I shouldn't have to cut anything away. Cutting off half a face is odd.

I, well, Josh, stuffed them with ground pork cooked in mirin, soy sauce, ginger, and I think that was it. The meat sort of boils in the liquids and so absorbs those flavors. The squid - you just boil them for two minutes until opaque and then stuff. I believe the squid dishes I had in restaurants were such that the squid, once stuffed, was seared on a griddle, or perhaps broiled, and sauce was poured over? Dunno. Mine were quite good, even if they were different.
The final plate included fiddlehead ferns, sauteed lotus root, and kakiage. The latter was store-bought. We love it with a little tempura dipping sauce. Mmmm. The lotus root is quite good in just a little soy sauce and rice vinegar for a few minutes. Lotus is creamy and subtle. The fiddleheads - you want to know - what? why? how? So those are wee baby ferns. Native peoples in this region have known about them forever. Apparently, one of the many Asian cultures that shops at U also has known about them because they came all neatly wrapped in plastic and on special! They were an impulse buy. I blanched them for 2 minutes, then sauteed in garlic and ginger. They were not good. Well, Josh ate his, but I found them inedibly bitter. I had enough on my plate that I didn't feel the need to doctor them to make them edible. They probably could have used rice vinegar ... and bacon. I was thinking that they could be treated like collards probably successfully. They are far more bitter, though, perhaps like dandelion greens are.
The next day, for lunch, we revisited the lotus, and put the leftover pork stuffing in inari! Lovely! The tempura was store-bought - not that I haven't made my own, thank you very much. A little udon and pickled ginger to top it off. Delicious. This was the lunch that Josh insists gave him food poisoning. This is impossible because we ate the same thing. Unless he rubbed his hands all over garbage cans first, then he was not poisoned by me. Nope. Not this time, anyway. Now, if we were to talk about the Green Goddess Incident, that's a whole different story, and it was a long time ago.

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