Squid are abundant in Rhode Island waters where Ciders of Spain started out. I was lucky to have a regular supply freshly caught by a fisherman friend. While not fresh off the line, I have found a good source of whole frozen squid at my favorite Asian supermarket in Portland.
I leave it to Spanish bars to serve me my calamares fritos and stick to preparing other squid favorites at home. Of course, fried, they are great with sidra, but I prefer a nice, crisp pilsner. In Spanish bars you will find them fried as rings or as a jumble of tentacles and tubes of baby squid called chipirones. You can imagine how crunchy a little curly bundle of fried tentacles can be. However, the simplest and purest fresh squid experience is Chipirones ala Plancha.
Cleaning the Squid:
(This is easy, but a bit time consuming. The payoff: freshness and, once done, the dish is 95% finished.)
- Do not buy cleaned squid because they will not be super fresh or fresh-frozen when they get to you.
- Rinse fresh or just-thawed squid.
- Holding a squid in one hand insert the forefinger of the other or a short, sharp pairing knife into the conical tube and run it along the inner surface freeing the guts. Still holding the squid, remove your forefinger or knife. Grab the bunched tentacles where they join the beak and give a little tug and see if all of the inards start to come along with them. If not, run your finger or knife around the inside of the sheath some more, feeling for stuff and nudging it away from the sheath. Pull out the tentacle bundle and all that comes with it and set on a corner of the cutting board. Reinsert the knife and try to scrape out any remaining soft material that is not the firm tube itself. You can squeeze the sheath from its point toward the open end like toothpaste to help remove any remaining stuff and discard it.
- Lay each empty tube flat on a cutting board and scrape the thin purple skin off with the pairing knife starting the stroke from the pointed end toward the open end. Once the skin has been torn you can either grab an edge between thumb and forefinger and peel it away from the whole sheath from the open end toward the point or continue to scrape it off with the knife, whichever turns out to be quickest. For best result be careful not to tear the sheath, but if you do, you can still cook that one. You can keep the fins on if you can manage to strip their skin without losing them. Dipose of skin.
- Take each of the reserved tentacle clusters and cut it as one connected bunch away from the beak and eyes. Squeeze the cluster around the circle where the tentacles join to get the round tooth to pop out and discard that. My fisherman friend insists on keeping what he calls the tenderloin, or skinny piece of flesh connected to the rest of the innards. I find it too small and elusive to bother with. Save the tentacle clusters and discard the rest.
- Rinse the cleaned tentacles and tubes and stuff each tube with one of the tentacle clusters.
- Drizzle olive oil all over a heavy cast-iron griddle and heat it over a medium high burner. Immediately sprinkle the garlic on the griddle before it comes to full temperature, smashing it as it softens and removing it to a plate before it begins to burn and smell acrid. The griddle is ready when a droplet of water sizzles and evaporates immediately. Before the oil begins to smoke, reduce the heat to medium low to hold its achieved temperature without burning the oil.
- Distribute the squid pouches evenly and let them brown well and even get a bit of crisp. With a nice thin-bladed metal spatula flip the squid and brown the others side. On a hot griddle the whole cooking time may be about 5 minutes, but let the browning determine done-ness.
- Mound the squid slightly on the center of a plate, drizzle the remaining oil from the skillet and sprinkle with the brown crumbs of garlic.
- Give each person a small plate, hors hors d’oeuvres fork and small lemon wedge and pieces of a crusty baguette for sopping up the oil.
- Best paired with a sidra natural, sidra brut, albariño, vinho verde, txakoli or a not over-hopped pilsner.