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The Fish Market

The Long and the Short of Cooking a Tasty Squid Dish

May 01, 1986|ISAAC CRONIN and PAUL JOHNSON | Cronin and Johnson are co-authors of "The California Seafood Cookbook."

There are many different varieties of squid. Some are large, some are small but nearly all are edible.

The common California squid, Loligo opalescens , is considered by many to be the most desirable squid of all. In the past, much of our squid was frozen and shipped to Spain, France and Japan. But this inexpensive and delicious seafood is becoming more popular in the United States every year.

California has two squid seasons, the winter squid season in Southern California--which this year was exceptionally long and successful--and the summer season off Monterey, which began late in April. Expectations are high for a good spring and summer catch as well.

Cleaned Squid

Fresh squid is usually sold whole. If you want cleaned squid, it is probably available only frozen. Although squid freezes very well (the texture stays firm and the flavor remains good), fresh squid has an elusive sweetness never found in frozen squid.

Cooking squid is simple if you keep in mind how it reacts to heat. If cooked rapidly on high heat for less than three minutes the squid remains tender. More than three minutes and the squid toughens. But if you continue to braise or stew squid for more than 20 minutes the proteins break down and the squid again becomes tender. So the rule is: less than three minutes or more than 20.

Sauteing or Stir-Frying

Squid can be cooked by almost any cooking method. To blanch squid for a salad, plunge it into salted boiling salted water for 30 seconds, then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Sauteing or stir-frying is a two- to three-minute operation on the hottest fire available. It can be charcoal grilled over a hot fire quickly. Braising or baking squid in a moderate oven takes from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of the squid.

Although some labor is involved in cleaning squid, it is a relatively simple operation well worth the trouble. A fishmonger will be glad to show you how it is done. The yield is about 80%, so buy a little more than a half a pound per person. Squid is a bargain at about 75 cents per serving. SQUID IN BLACK BEAN SAUCE

1/4 cup fermented, salted black beans

1/4 cup dry Sherry or rice wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped ginger

2 tablespoons oil

2 pounds squid, cut into rings

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup shredded green onions

Hot cooked rice

Slightly crush black beans and combine with Sherry and soy sauce. Set aside 20 minutes.

Stir-fry garlic and ginger in oil in wok or large skillet 1 minute. Add squid and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add black bean sauce mixture and stir-fry 2 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add green onions and cornstarch mixture and serve over rice as soon as sauce thickens. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

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