A few posts ago, Urspo wondered how to make squid tasty and not tough, as it’s wont to do if you cook it longer than three minutes. That’s the thing with squid, there is no middle ground. You can choose to either poach it or fry it for a few minutes, or subject it to long, slow cooking, after which it becomes soft and tender. Otherwise it toughens up.
Spicy squid stew with Belgian beer, fennel and ramps
When I went to the greenmarket this weekend, I thought that I wanted to do a Catalan-style squid stew, with bacon (in place of chorizo) and potatoes. On the other hand, I had some ramps that I needed to use and this seemed like the perfect vehicle for it.
Squid is near flavorless by itself, so it’s important to build layers of flavor, especially if you’re going to use it in a preparation that doesn’t involve frying. Start with a base of sautéed onions, fennel and ramps in olive oil, then add one cup of Belgian beer. I used Ommegang Witte, a perfect complement for this dish. It has notes of citrus and coriander and is light on the tongue.
A side note: this is one of the reasons why a common refrain on this blog is if you wouldn’t drink with it, don’t cook with it. When you cook with wine, the alcohol evaporates, so what’s left is mostly the fruit essence of the wine, not the overall taste of it before cooking. Now, there are exceptions to this rule — which come with time, experience and understanding — but that’s the general axiom I go by.
You can use stock instead of the beer, if you like, or water, but either of these options will have a different flavor profile once the stew is finished.
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 bunch ramps, cleaned, trimmed and chopped (use both the leaves and stalks)
1 small to medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
dried chiles, crushed (or substitute chile pepper flakes, if unavailable)
1 lb. squid, trimmed and sliced
1 cup Belgian beer — (1)
1 can crushed tomatoes
freshly milled black pepper
Place squid in a bowl. Sprinkle a generous pinch of kosher salt on squid. Toss and set aside for 5 minutes.
Gently heat olive oil in a stew pot over moderate-low heat. Add onion, fennel, dried chiles and ramp stalks. Sauté until aromatics are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add beer. Simmer for two to three minutes, then add squid, ramp leaves and crushed tomatoes to the pot. Stir, then cover. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes or until tomatoes have reduced slightly in volume. Taste for salt and pepper; you should need very little.
Ladle stew in shallow soup bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve with plenty of bread to mop up the sauce.
(1) — If Belgian beer is unavailable in your area, use a good white wine instead.