Spicy Squid

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To know me is to acknowledge I have a HUGE thing for Asian-influenced cuisine. If you’re okay with that, we can be best friends forever. If you’re not okay with it, you need to come to terms with the fact you might need therapy.

Since Thanksgiving, I have been happily reading and experimenting in the kitchen with my “L.A. Son” cookbook by Roy Choi. The food in it is fantastic – it consists of a great combination of laid-back dishes as well as more in-depth recipes for lazy weekend cooking. More than being just a well-rounded cookbook featuring Roy’s gift for Asian-fusion, it’s Roy’s personal journey from street-punk/gambler to a serious chef who’s well-respected in the industry.

When I was learning to cook alongside my mom, we relied heavily on old standards like the “Better Homes and Garden Cookbook”. It provided a bedrock of solid cooking material, sure, but it didn’t give me much insight into a real person behind the dish. Cookbooks today offer a glimpse into the mind and heart of a chef – something I totally go nutballs over. Seriously, I’m a freakin’ addict.

You should cook and eat this dish because a) it tastes freaking awesome, and b) because Roy tells you to …

“Nothing says Korean bar food more than spicy sautéed octopus or squid. The plate is always huge, the flavors are always over the top, it’s always piping hot, and you’re always drunk. Is there any other way to eat a meal?”

No judgement calls for folks who would rather eat this stone-cold sober. It’s fantastic either way but I do like it best with an ice-cold brewsky.

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The key to this tender-squid dish is simmering it in water for a long time. Unlike most seafood recipes, this is not a quick dish – you’ll want to save it for the weekend when you are not as inclined to rush the cooking process because you’ve got hungry mouths to feed after a long day’s work. This squid is actually cooked twice – first it’s poached and then it receives a quick sear in a hot wok. This produces a tender piece of squid with a bit of char that will also stay tender if you reheat it the next day.

Enjoy this squid salad on it’s own, or toss with some rice noodles or fried rice. Delish!

I found squid the most readily available, so that’s what I used. I also found that the sauce ingredients made way more sauce than I needed, and I even doubled up on the squid, using one pound instead of six ounces. But I really encourage you to go ahead and make the sauce in the quantities suggested because it is so wonderful, you will want to drizzle it on EVERYTHING that’s not nailed down. I tossed half of the sauce in a freezer bag and plan to sauté some shrimp in it next week. It would be great over broiled fish, too.

Let this sauce make you happy as only it can.

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Spicy Squid

(adapted from Roy Choi’s Spicy Octopus)

Serves 2

Sauce:

1/2 white or yellow onion, peeled

1/2 Asian pear, peeled, halved and cored (if you can’t find Asian pears, any old pear will do)

1/2 cup kochujang (fermented chile sauce – this may be hard to find at your local grocer, but you can find it at Asian grocers and/or online)

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. sugar

2 T. chopped garlic

2 T. natural rice vinegar (unseasoned)

2 T. sesame seeds

1/2 cup water

Squid:

8 ounces baby squid or octopus, cleaned

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup scallions in 2-inch batons/stickes

1/4 cup thinly sliced onion

1/4 cup thinly sliced bell pepper

In a blender, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and puree. Set aside.

Put the octopus or squid in a pot and pour in enough water to cover. Bring it to a boil, then simmer the octopus, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours, or until extremely tender. Check on the squid often and add more water if necessary to keep it covered. Enjoy the beautiful aroma of gently poached octopus as it wafts about the house! It really is lovely. Drain the squid and let it cool for 1 hour at room temperature.

*At this point, Roy does not instruct whether to cut up the squid or leave it whole. If I was using baby octopus, I would definitely cut it up into chunks, and so I felt I should do the same with the squid tubes. I sliced them thinly before charring the pieces in the hot wok. It’s just a personal preference. Do what you feel is right.

Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and, when it begins to smoke, add the squid and get a nice char – this should take about 3 minutes. Immediately add the vegetables and toss for about a minute until everything is slightly cooked and the vegetables are crunchy-tender.

Add the sauce and bring it all together, then turn off the heat and scoop the squid into a big bowl.

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