Stewed Cuttlefish and Squid

Sepia e Calamari in Umido

It’s that time of year when some will surf the net looking for seafood recipes. In many Italian households, you see, Christmas Eve will be celebrated with a Feast of the 7 Fishes … or 11 Fishes … or 12 Fishes … or 13 Fishes. The number itself is dependent upon: a) the number of Christian Sacraments (7); b) the number of Apostles minus Judas (11); c) the number of original Apostles (12); or, d) the number of original Apostles plus Jesus (13). No matter how or why you count them — and there are more versions than those I’ve listed — that’s a lot of fish dishes.

*     *     *

Sepia e Calamari in Umido

*     *     *

Although my family never celebrated with a Feast of however many Fishes, we did have a variety of seafood dishes to enjoy on Christmas Eve. I’ve shared those recipes, along with a meatless dish or two, in previous years. To make it easier for you to access them, I’ve created a “Christmas Eve” category that you can access at the end of this post or on the right side of the blog’s Home Page. If you need more suggestions, you may want to check out my Seafood (Frutti di Mare) category. There you’ll find every seafood dish I’ve shared over the past 5 years. (5 years!! Do you believe it?)

I doubt that today’s recipe was ever served at either home of the two-flat. The fact is, either cuttlefish (sepia) or squid (calamari) would have been served but never both in the same pot. Believe me. Initially I had no intention of doing it either. The fact is that the fishmonger was out of fresh cuttlefish and the box contained fewer than were needed to make today’s dish. As luck would have it, that was the only box that he had. It had been decades since either Zia or myself had even seen cuttlefish and I wanted to surprise her with them during the last Visitation. So, I bought some fresh squid and decided to sail into uncharted culinary waters.

Before getting into the recipe, lets talk seafood. Cuttlefish, squid, and octopus are all members of the cephalopod family. As you can see in the photo below, a cuttlefish has the shorter, more round body with tentacles that are also shorter and thicker than its squid cousin. If you own a parakeet/budgie, you may have purchased a cuttlebone for it to use to maintain its beak. That “bone” comes from cuttlefish. In squid, that bone is a smaller, clear, and flexible piece of cartilage. It’s known as the “pen”. The flesh of cuttlefish is thicker than that of squid and most believe it to be more tender. When cooked in umido, like today’s dish, the difference is too minimal to be noticed — at least to my palate. Lastly, because of the differences in body type, I sliced the cuttlefish lengthwise into strips. The squid’s body was cut into rings. The tentacles of both were cut in half but if you find them unappealing, just discard them. (See NOTES for help with cleaning squid.)

*     *     *

Cuttlefish & Squid

*     *     *

Stewed Cuttlefish and Squid Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2 or 3 anchovies
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 lb raw cuttlefish, skinned, cleaned and cut into strips. If using tentacles, cut in half.
  • 1 lb raw squid, skinned, cleaned, and cut into rings. If fusing tentacles, cut in half.
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large can (28 oz, 800 g) whole tomatoes
  • 1 small can (14 oz, 400 g ) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole clove garlic, minced or grated
  • sliced, thick crusted bread for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oil over med-high heat in a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Add the anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes before reducing heat to med-low. Cook for about 2 minutes. Do not allow garlic to burn.
  3. Add cuttlefish and squid and continue to cook until flesh whitens – about 5 minutes.
  4. Add wine and increase heat to med-high. Continue to cook until wine is reduced by half – about 7 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add both cans of tomatoes, tearing the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the pot.
  6. Combine the parsley and basil and use 3/4 to season the pot. Reserve the rest. Stir to fully combine.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the pot to simmer for at least 20 minutes. It is ready to be served when the stew has thickened and grown deeper in color.
  8. Bring to the table garnished with the remaining chopped basil and parsley.

To Serve

While the stew simmers, toast some crusty bread, one slice per serving. While still warm. rub the remaining garlic clove across the bread. Place one slice of the now garlicky bread

into the bottom of each serving bowl. When it has finished simmering, ladle the stew over the bread in each bowl. Buon appetito!

*     *     *

Notes

When cooking cuttlefish or squid, either cook them for less than a minute or more than 45 minutes. Anything in between will result in seafood with the texture of rubber. Because this is a stewed dish, if in doubt, taste a piece. If it’s chewy, continue to cook until tender.

As you know, I work alone in the kitchen, taking all the photos as I go. Normally, there isn’t a problem that a time delay and remote shutter cannot handle. Cleaning squid, however, is a different matter completely. Being the ham-fisted person that I am, there really was no way for me to capture the cleaning without in some way impacting my camera. Is squid juice corrosive? I didn’t want to find out, so, I’ve found a video that will teach you what you need to know about cleaning squid — all in under 3 minutes. Enjoy!  How to clean squid.

This is another seafood dish in which the flavors are relatively mild. Using grated cheese would pretty much obliterate them. Save that cheese for some other dish on the night’s menu.

*     *     *

Leftovers?

Squid and Sepia Leftovers

Was there any doubt?

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Frutti di Mare, Deja vu

Whether you choose to serve this dish individually, with each dinner guest receiving a packet, or en masse, with a large packet placed in the table’s center, few dishes will delight your table mates like Linguine with Seafood in Parchment. After all, who doesn’t like receiving gifts this time of year and this one comes with a fantastic aroma that’s released upon opening. It doesn’t get much better than this and you can learn all about it HERE.

 *     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Braised Rabbit PreviewStovetop Braised Rabbit

(You may want to skip this one, Eva.)

 *     *     *

Advertisements

54 thoughts on “Stewed Cuttlefish and Squid

  1. I had heard of the ‘Feast of the X Fishes’, so it’s true! I also heard that the Italians serve lasagna on Christmas Eve. Fascinating! I once had a Japanese boss (owner of the company) who visited the USA with his chef. He had an apartment and invited his staff to his place and the chef cooked for us. I also heard from the chef that ‘squid should be cooked for less than a minute’. Squid juice may not be corrosive, but it sure would add aroma to your camera. 😀 ))) Video was the best way to go with it. Good video. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and yours, dear John!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Fae. We never had lasagna on Christmas Eve. Way back in the day, the Church didn’t allow meat on Christmas Eve, hence the reason for the seafood. Dad would come home from the restaurant bearing clams and oysters. While Mom cooked dinner, very often pasta with tuna and broiled red snapper fillets, Dad got to work shucking the shellfish. There may not have been 7 or whatever number of fish dishes served but we certainly enjoyed our dinner.
      Wishing you the very best of holidays, Fae.

      Like

  2. Fast and furious or long and slow – I agree! I love seafood, I think you know this 🙂 We didn’t have a Christmas Eve fish dinner either when I was growing up. Since being with Big Man, of course, all that changed. Not sure quite how many fish/crustaceans will appear on our plates tomorrow night, we’re waiting to see what the fishmonger has prepared for us to collect in the morning! I love recipes like this and the leftovers do indeed make fantastic pasta. John, all that remains is for us to wish you (and of course Zia) a marvellous Christmas and health and happiness for 2016 – looking forward to sharing it with you via the blogs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Tanya. I hope everyone sees just how easy this dish is to prepare. So many are seafood-phobic and dread trying to prepare it. I’m sure that those who attempt this dish will do it again and again. That is one tasty dish!
      I just spoke with Zia within the last hour and passed along your well-wishes. She’ll be spending Christmas with the family of one of her sons. She asked that I make sure I wished you a Buon Natale. And I just did.
      Good luck at the fishmonger tomorrow, Tanya, and I hope that you and Big Man have a most memorable Christmas with a healthy and prosperous New Year to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Buono Sera John! I bet this dish was just delicious and tender in the tomato broth. Speaking of squid…do you have a recipe for stuffed squid..the Italian way? I had this dish in Southern Italy and I have not had it since. Wishing you and Zia a fabulous Christmas and 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Buona notte, BAM! You’re right. The “cousins” took to stewing very well and both were quite tender. We did enjoy that meal, I must admit. I’ve yet to post the recipe for baked calamari but it is in the book, which I’m trying to get converted to Kindle format. (What a struggle!) Check you gmail inbox. I sent you the recipe earlier today. Let me know if you’ve not received it or have any questions.
      I hope you all share the most memorable Christmas and every happiness in the New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Buono Sera John,

        Thank you and Zia so much! I had a similar recipe in Italy and yet to find the recipe and now my prayers have been answered. I love this recipe as it is so simple and yet so delicious. I can’t wait for your book to come out on kindle!!!

        We are blessed here to purchase squid still swimming here in HK, so I will be doing all of the cleaning.

        Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and a safe and happy 2016!

        Take Care,
        Bobbi (BAM)

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Stefan. This was a great dish and it transported both Zia me back to that two-flat. That was some dinner! The dish you so enjoyed sounds similar to how we prepare baccalà, with potatoes. In fact, that’s what I’ll be preparing tomorrow night for dinner. I won’t be cooking any other fishes so this one had better be good enough to make up for the missing 6. 🙂
      Wishing you and Kees the brightest of holidays and much joy in 2016, Stefan.
      Buon Natale!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This recipe would admittedly be very new territory for the wife and I but several food items we shunned early in our life together have become go-to meals as the years have gone by…so you never know! John, Happy Holidays to you, yours and all your readers and thanks for the follows on my sites. It has been a pleasure finding and following your site in 2015 and looking forward to new posts in the New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. This may be a bit “unusual” for the uninitiated but I can guarantee you will enjoy it. I might suggest ditching the tentacles that first time, however. No sense pushing the point. 🙂
      I really have enjoyed visiting your sights and appreciate your take on sports. One of these days … er … years I’ll read your views of the Cubs playing in the World Series. For the first time in ages, I can honestly say it could happen … 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Although it’s not my family’s tradition, much more often than not we have seafood on Christmas Eve, too. Often with pasta. So it’d be stew for the big night, then use the leftovers with pasta another day. 🙂 Perfect post for the season — thanks. And speaking of the season, Happy holidays!

    Like

    • We had plenty of seafood on Christmas Eve but never once was there a count involved. As it was, that dinner was my favorite “ravioli-free” dinner of the year. Tomorrow I’ll be preparing baccalà. Thank heavens it’s warm outdoors. I’ll be able to open a window and air out my kitchen in the morning. 🙂
      I hope you and Mrs. Riff enjoy a wonder-filled Holiday Season, John

      Like

  6. This looks delicious John! We’re actually making your parchment seafood pasta this year (tomorrow night). The tradition carries on – a Bartolini Christmas Eve! The kids are delighted to have mussels again. They love those things. 🙂 I hope you have a very Merry Christmas John. Many, many hugs to you dear friend!

    Like

    • I know I’m repeating myself when I say that I consider it an honor that your family celebrates Christmas Eve preparing one of our dishes. Zia really enjoys hearing it, as I know Mom would. This year you’ve chosen a good one. That first whiff of the steam rising from the packet is worth all the hassle with the folding. Remember: a stapler is your friend. 🙂
      Again, thank you for mentioning our cookbook, Kristy and for making it part of your give-away, I hope the Chef household has the very best of Christmases and may 2016 bring you all good health and much happiness.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t live alone but I’m often the only one home when I’m cooking so I have so many challenges taking photos as I go – and forgetting to take photos as I go. I haven’t had to clean squid while also pointing the camera but I have been decorating a lot of cakes with icing sugar and sticky sugary things flying around and it’s a battle trying not to end up with a camera coated in sugar. I love the history of this dish – I know a lot of people who eat fish on Fridays, fish on Good Friday and fish on Christmas Eve – I love how in celebrating the tradition on Christmas Eve there’s a lot of ‘versatility’ in the interpretation of what is permissible. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, John with best wishes for 2016 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Frankly, Charlie, I don’t know how you create the masterpieces that you do, let alone take photos along the way. I’m sure you could have a very successful business making cakes for those of us who cannot frost a cupcake to save our souls. Then you could hire a photographer to handle these “distractions.” 🙂
      I wish that you and that wonderful family of yours share a most memorable Christmas, Charlie, and may nothing but the best come your way in 2016.

      Like

  8. Oh, Xmas gifts galore! Thank you Signor Amici 🙂 ! A great lesson also: I have only ever known of the ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’ so have to look up the other three or four!! Now I love squid and I love cuttlefish but have never prepared them together . . . and the only one of the family I usual cook ‘long’ is octopus kind’of in the Greek style . . . and John, I have missed adding anchovies to my pan . . . another idea which will be followed as quickly as I can get my hands on said beloved seafood: twixt Yule and New Year I hope . . . meanwhile ‘have a good’one’!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Eha, there are multiple versions of The Feast, as well as questions about its origins. Some say Sicily while others insist it is Italian-American in origin. Me? I’m more concerned with what’s being served rather than why. 🙂
      I do enjoy adding anchovies to a number of dishes.In fact, I’ll be adding some to the stewed baccalà I’ll be serving for this year’s Christmas Eve dinner. I love the flavor they bring to any dish.
      I hope you have a most enjoyable holiday season, Eha, and a healthy and prosperous 2016.

      Like

  9. I’m sure this is delicious, it looks delicious. But you know me….
    I’m the only one who cooks and photographs…my poor camera, sticky fingers, flour dusting, smudges, splatters….it’s a wonder it still works!
    Have a wonderful holiday season John, Merry Christmas to you and all your extended family. I always get a kick out of your brother’s comments on FB 🙂
    I thank you for your friendship and your constant encouragement and support. Her’s to many more years of friendship!

    Nazneen

    Like

    • Then you really do understand, Nazneen. For me, it’s the “How to Make …” posts that drive me crazy. Either I’m hiding the remote shutter in one hand for an “action” shot or I’m keeping one finger clean to work the shutter. There was no way I could do either with the squid. Enter YouTube. That website has instructional videos for everything. Bless them!
      Thank you for the well-wishes and kind words. Yes, one of the unforeseen rewards of blogging is developing friendships with some wonderful people, and that group wold certainly include you. I’m glad you enjoy my brother’s commentary but, if you don’t mind, I’ll just keep that between the two of us. He doesn’t need any encouragement. If he learns he has a fan … 🙂
      Wishing you and your lovely family every happiness in 2016.

      Like

  10. I absolutely loved this post until…
    I can’t even make myself ‘like’ it. I’m guessing it’s pay back for all the spider-stuff. I still love you. But braised sweet little, cuddly, furry bunny? Really? How could you?

    Like

    • In my dizziness of seeing braised bunny on your blog, I completely forgot to wish you and Zia a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. I can’t wait to show you Toronto in 2016!

      Like

  11. I love this recipe. I just signed up for emails from your posts because I haven’t been keeping up with my reader. This post reminds me of when I was a teenager and I used to work as a fish monger in our local fish store. Twice a week we’d go to the Fulton fish market in NYC, before they moved it to the Bronx. We’d go around 3am before dawn, but I was never allowed to leave the van because the store was run by Italians and the women were shielded from all the haggling. On Christmas Eve all of the Italian families in my hometown put in enormous orders and our little fish store family would stay up all night and sleep in the store putting together stuffed clams, shrimp cocktails, rehydrating huge garbage plastic garbage cans (clean of course) full of bacala that had been salted the previous year. It was very special and taught me the joy of hard work. I really love this recipe. I’m looking forward to the braised rabbit one too. I just bought a coniglio and have it frozen waiting for a good recipe. Happy holidays! All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trying to get caught up with all of the missed comments. Thanks for being so patient, Amanda.
      What a colorful spot to find employment, a fishmonger in NYC. Wow! Next to Seattle, I can’t think of any place that even comes close. That place must have been sheer madness at Christmas Eve and I wonder f women are still barred from entering on the Eve.
      Yes, this is a great, easy way to cook clams and makes one heckuva presentation when you bring the steaming cast iron pan from the grill to the table. Do give it a try.
      I hope your holidays were special, Amanda, and may the New Year be filled with joy and good health for you and yours.

      Like

  12. This looks delicious. Mill have to make it sometime for the boys. They love all things seafood, especially fried calamari so I’m sure they would enjoy it. We have homemade pizza Christmas Eve. Not sure how it began, but as long as I can remember growing up the dough would rise,while, we were at Christmas Eve mass and we made pizza when we got home, after driving along Lake Michigan to look at all the beautiful houses with their holiday lights. Merry Christmas to you John 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • It took me a while, but I got here, Gretchen. When you get right down to it, it’s not the kind of food on the table that’s important. It’s spending the time together for these days. I think pizza on Christmas Eve is a great idea. I’m sure your bouys aren’t complaining. 🙂
      Hope you all enjoy the happiest of years in 2016.

      Like

  13. What a vibrant looking dish! I’m sure it’s as delicious as it looks. Sad to say, but I will be honest — I likely will never make this myself, but your post has made me want to try this in a restaurant sometime. It’s too late to go out for a Christmas Eve dinner now, but before too long I will try one of the Italian restaurants in town to see if they have a version. Happy Christmas Eve to you, and all the best for a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Took me some time but I did get here, Mar!
      I’m not so sure that you’ll find stewed squid on many Italian restaurant’s menus. Stewed cuttle fish will be even more rare. It’s shame because it is a great way to prepare and serve them. You really need to be in some town’s Little Italy to have any chance of finding either dish.
      Wishing you and all whom you hold dear a bright and happy New Year, Mar.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I found it interesting that seafood is traditionally a Christmas Eve dish. While the G.O. & I are neither Catholic or religious we have a tradition of a special fresh seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. Celebratory, light and simple. If the weather were cooler a seafood stew would be perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got here,EllaDee, a little late but here nevertheless …
      I, too, find it interesting that so many enjoy seafood on Christmas Eve and without any religious reasoning behind it. Whatever the reason, it’s a tradition that I’m more than willing to follow. The idea of spending one Christmas south of the equator has always interested me. Much more than that and I think I’d miss the cold and snow. (Please don’t pass that along to the weather gods.) 🙂

      Like

  15. dear JOHN. thanks for the simple yet sweet to try squid et cuttlefish recipe, I’m just beginning to discover seafoods and can’t wait to try the many simple recipes from you, hope to surprise and thrill my wife with my skills.
    please I’ll appreciate every assistance from you to achieve this.
    i dnt mind more simple and whoa recipes sent to my mail box.
    thanks.
    Bshp.

    Like

    • I am more than willing to help you in any way that I can. I have many recipes here on this blog. IF you tell me what you would like to cook, I will be able to assist you more easily. We’ll surprise your wife, rest assured.
      Thank you for the visit and I look forward to working with you in the near future.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s