Langdon Cook's Calamari Recipe

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The following recipe is excerpted from Langdon Cook’s book Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager.


Risotto Nero con Calamaro

In coastal Italy, particularly around Venice, this is considered a traditional Christmas holiday meal despite the somewhat shocking color. But the squid ink is what makes this one. The key is in not undercooking or overcooking the squid. Overcooked squid has the texture of a vending machine SuperBall; undercooked squid isn’t much better, although as sushi it can be quite tender and delicious when fresh. If your dinner guests are into squid and you just pulled a ten-pound limit the night before, forgo the usual sides and just get deep into mollusca: fried calamari with dipping sauces to start, followed by black risotto as the main. You can pass on homemade squid ice cream.


A note about cleaning your squid: It takes patience! Try not to imagine that you’re handling a spent condom. The head and tentacles separate from the mantle fairly easily. On smaller specimens it’s difficult to pull out the viscera without bursting the ink sac in the process, but with larger squid you can first remove a long, hard, transparent shaft called a pen (a remnant of its molluscan shell) and then slide out the viscera intact, after which you can prick the ink sac and drain its ambrosial contents into a small receptacle for later use. Should you burst the ink sac in the cleaning process, you can still recover much of the ink simply by squeezing it out of the mantle, although it will be diluted. (If you prove less than adept, there are specialty food shops online that carry small sachets of ink for decent prices.) Next, clean any remaining gunk out of the mantle’s interior and peel off the skin layer. Use a sharp knife to cut the tentacles away from the head just below the eye; make sure you discard the hard beak at the center. Now you can slice the mantle into calamari rings or strips, or leave it whole for stuffing. With some proficiency, the cleaning process shouldn’t take more than a minute or so per squid.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 cup basil, rough cut

1 cup tomato sauce

1 pound squid, cleaned and cut into rounds

1 teaspoon (or more) squid ink

2 cups Arborio rice

8-10 cups fish or clam broth

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sauté onion in olive oil until tender. Add parsley and basil, followed by tomato sauce. Stir in squid and ink and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in rice and continue stirring as rice begins to toast. Add hot broth one or two ladles at a time, stirring constantly, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.