Don’t be a Scaredy-Squid

If you are, it’s okay, you will be able to change. I too have overcome being a scaredy-squid. I too used to fear the old adage that you must cook this tentacled treat either very fast or very slow. How fast? What if I’m not fast enough? How slow? How hot? Squid, for all its delicious flavors and spectacular texture is something that these days is most often found in its rather unfortunate and overplayed deep fried form and is far more rarely seen in its true, beautiful quick cooked or slow cooked form.

Ubiquitous as the deep fried squid, aka calamari is, you would think it would start to make that transition into our home kitchens, yet there are so many, who, like myself, think it something best to leave to the professionals. I’ve had many a great preparation–calamari steaks, slow poached in olive oil, whole squid, grilled on a stick with spicy dipping sauce or even braised in marinara over a pile of polenta. Still, with all this delicious incentive I rarely brought it home and cooked with it. It can’t be the price–squid is barely above shrimp in the ranks of cheap seafood. It can’t be that I don’t like it–I think I’ve made that abundantly clear. I was just scared that I would ruin these beautiful creatures.

Lucky for me, I’ve overcome that fear by making the rest of my cooking comfortable. For me, there is nothing more comfortable than having my wok on the stove and a pile of greens ready to go. This is my only trick for getting over kitchen fears–go to your happy place in the kitchen. Mine? It’s stir-frying. I have been doing it since high school and know endless variations. I know friends for whom it is making soup, some for whom it is omelets (though I make no guarantees on the tastiness of the squid omelet). Any other tricks out there? Any other great squids that I’m missing? Fill me in for sure, because after this recipe, I plan to make it some more.

Squid Stir-Fry

1 lb squid, cleaned and chopped into bite size pieces
1 large bag of pea shoots
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil plus one more teaspoon

Heat your wok until it is very hot, then add the sesame oil and give it just a few seconds to get screaming hot, rolling the wok to spread the oil. You can always do this in a sautee pan, if necessary. Drop in the pea shoots, stirring them around quite a bit to get them all evenly in the oil, then add the rest of the ingredients other than the squid. When the greens have started to weaken but are not yet wilted, put them on a plate and set aside. Allow the sauce to reduce a few seconds and then pour over the greens. Add the remaining oil to the wok, let it get hot, then add the squid. Give it about 30 seconds, then dump the greens and sauce back in, mix quickly and put back on the plate. The squid will keep cooking in the sauce and by the time they get to the table they will be what would be al dente in pasta terms–they take just a pleasurable little bit of biting to get through them.