Saturday, September 26, 2009

Squid and the City

To those who voted: thank you. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was having my fate decided by forces outside of myself. The grand-banquet buffet of options for “things to do in NYC” can be absolutely paralyzing at times, and it’s not entirely uncommon for me to just lie in bed and whimper on weekend mornings. Or to simply fall into the farmers market/dog park/cook something/eat it/watch movie/go to bed early routine, which I can do just about anywhere on the planet. Sometimes the awesome-ness of New York propels me to go out and embrace its powerful experiences, but sometimes it overwhelms me so much I want to cry. Then I feel guilty for not embracing all it has to offer. Then I feel overwhelmed again. Then I reluctantly acknowledge that I am a neurotic weirdo.

What made last weekend even more exciting was the fact that the voting was still happening throughout (since I had forgotten to change the settings of the poll to have it end on Friday), and on Saturday morning, it was still anyone’s game. Since “Curry Hill” finally emerged as the clear winner, I promise to do that one soon, but last Sunday afternoon, squid pulled into the lead with a whopping 2 votes.

Saturday went like this:
Nathan: “What should we do this weekend?”
Me: “I won’t know until more people vote.”
Nathan: “Huh?”
Me: “Here are the options: Little Italy in the Bronx for fresh rabbit, but that has no votes, or squid shopping, or the Greek neighborhood in Queens, or Curry Hill; those all have one vote.”
Nathan: “It’s nice out. All those sound good. What do you want to do?”
Me: “The Bronx or Queens. Those are the furthest away. And I know the rabbit stew has no votes yet, but I kind of want to check out the Bronx Zoo. Plus, if something else winds up with more votes, there’s always tomorrow.”

So that’s how I ended up with the best pasta ever. After about 90 minutes wandering around the zoo (with Nathan asking every 30 minutes or so, “Any more votes?”), we headed East a few blocks over to the historic Arthur Avenue/E. 187th Street “Little Italy” neighborhood of the Bronx. Unfortunately it was pretty late in the day by the time we arrived, and Vincent’s Meat Market was closing up shop. I still had no votes for rabbit stew, so I shrugged and told myself I can always come back (the train ride wasn’t THAT long). I did arrive just in time to Borgatti’s on E. 187th to pick up some homemade ravioli – creamy ricotta pillows encased in fresh pasta dough, perfected over their 70 years in business.

On Sunday, I kept an eye on the mini-web browser on my phone, and when squid received its second vote, I scooted over to Citarella to consult the friendly gentlemen behind the fish counter. I practically ran the 15 blocks to get there. When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes – no squid in the squid spot. There is ALWAYS squid in the squid spot. I silently cursed the mini-crowd around the fish counter as if each person was there specifically to buy up all the squid and consciously foil my day. Too late to go to Chinatown; should have gone out for squid earlier; I bet that woman over there bought all my squid – she’s probably eats squid every Sunday – leave some squid for the rest of us, lady! My general New York neurosis was not helping one bit.

Deep breath, my rational brain waves kindly reminded me. “Excuse me; are you all out of squid for today?” The guy behind the counter smiles and says four magic words, with a wink: “Oh I’ve got squid.” He waves me down to the other end of the counter, goes back behind a wall for about 3 seconds, and emerges…with squid. “It’s nice and fresh, too, how much would you like?” I sputter “one-half pound please” in barely comprehensible vernacular because my general New York neurosis and rational brain waves are doing cartwheels of joy together.

(Cease cartwheels)

Suddenly I remember: I have never cleaned squid (or cooked with it for that matter), but I wouldn’t mind trying to figure it all out. “Is it cleaned and gutted and all that?” “Yeah lady, don’t worry.” “Oh. Okay. Thanks.”

I try to look relieved rather than reveal my disappointment. I know exactly what to do with clean squid, but I was kind of intrigued by having to figure out how to do all the dirty work myself. Maybe I will have to get a Chinatown squid sometime after all.

I decided to make “Squid Scampi” as a first course to the delicious fresh pasta dinner. It’s a typical scampi recipe, just featuring squid instead of shrimp.

Recipe for Squid Scampi:

Note: This dish would be even better with shrimp. I should have left that in the recipe. And maybe even added more seafood elements like scallop, mussels, etc. If you decide to up the quantity of fish used, up the other ingredients as well.
  • ½ lb fresh squid, sliced (see photo)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • ½ of a bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp of dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
  • Salt

Heat the oil on medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and the bay leaf. Cook for a minute or so until garlic sizzles golden but not burned. Toss in the squid (and shrimp if using). Squid and shrimp need very little time over the heat. They cook fast, and can overcook easily. Sprinkle a little salt over the dish. After 20-30 seconds the squid will turn opaque, then you really need to watch because as it just becomes opaque and firms up, it is done. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and wine, and discard the bay leaf and garlic chunks (if you prefer). Top with parsley and serve with crusty bread.



To prepare a cleaned squid, simply trim the tentacles and slice the body horizontally into rings.

The finished product looked like garlic Squidy-O’s.

We ate the ravioli with tomato sauce. Molto bene!


Anonymous said...

Squiddy-O's! Yay!
Honey, I have actually cleaned a squid and it's easy do do. You just dig your fingers into the tenticle end and pull the innards out of the body- it's not as nasty as it sounds, the innards mainly consist of a long, thin cuticle-like "bone" that is translucent white. Then you pull the skin off the body in the same way that you remove a nylon stocking from your leg. Easy.

Anonymous said...

I meant to do, not do do.
Love, Homer