The husband and I leave for Italy in a few days, so it was a serendipitous surprise to open Wednesday’s “New York Times” and find a recipe for Sicilian-style stuffed squid.
The family likes squid. Actually, they like calamari. And they like the itty-bitty ringlets of squid hiding in Trader Joe’s Seafood Blend. I wasn’t sure they’d go for whole squid bodies, stuffed and baked rather than deep-fried.
I won’t lie to you: Stuffed squid takes a lot of work. The bodies are narrow little cylinders. Teaspoons — even half-teaspoons — tear them up. That means your fingers do the stuffing, which is a little tedious and a lot messy.
Second, the squid doesn’t color. Even after a run under the broiler, the bodies remained pale. For a family used to the burnished brown of fried calamari, it was jarring.
But those creamy bodies were meltingly tender. The stuffing was spicy from garlic; hot from chili; deeply savory, thanks to the addition of a couple of anchovies. Pine nuts and panko lent a satisfying crunch.
The tentacles were even better: A bit crisper than the bodies they came from and a beautiful, pink-tinged hue.
The family’s reaction was mixed. The big boy hated my stuffed squid (but he hates everything). The little boy thought it was great — particularly the tentacles.
I liked the dish and can see it as a showstopping party appetizer.
And the husband?
“I can see eating this again,” he said.
You probably will, dear. Italy is calling.
Stuffed Squid (Adapted from David Tanis)
- 1 package frozen cleaned squid, thawed
- 3 cups fresh spinach, fresh chard or a combination of the two
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 Chile de arbol
- 3 tablespoons fennel fronds, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 anchovy fillets, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large oval baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
Drain the thawed squid, then place it between two towels to dry. Separate the tentacles from the bodies if necessary:
Place the spinach or chard in a large, dry saute pan. Toss it over medium-high heat until the greens have wilted. Drain in a colander, then squeeze all the liquid from them. Coarsely chop and set aside.
Add the greens, fennel fronds, garlic, anchovies, lemon zest, fennel and oregano and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until everything is incorporated and aromatic. Remove the saute pan from the heat and stir in the panko, pine nuts and Parmesan. Cool slightly:
Using your fingers, gently press one squid so it opens at the top. Stuff about 1 1/2 teaspoons of stuffing into the body cavity, then place the squid in the greased casserole dish. Repeat with all the squid.
Place the tentacles in the dish. Sprinkle any remaining stuffing over the tentacles and in the crevices between the squid bodies.
Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil:
Bake the squid for 20 minutes, then run under the broiler for 2-3 additional minutes. Serve hot.