Calamari with squid ink bouillon and parsley oil
I like small bites. Often times I find the starter options in restaurants more interesting then the mains. So when a special meal comes along such as over the holidays we will forego the big turkeys or standing rib roasts and spend the day making tapas. It’s a creative and fun way to spend the day. Cooking, eating, drinking, repeat.
We have also been binge watching netflix shows this past year. Having spent 3 full months in lock down here in Spain and with normal activity now limited, we have a 10pm curfew, we find ourselves escaping into various TV shows. A recent find was the series Chefs Table: France. We watched the episode featuring Alexandre Couillon and his Michelin starred restaurant La Table Marine & Vegetal on the small island of Noirmoutier, just off the coast of the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.
Noirmoutier is an isolated place connected to the mainland by a road that disappears twice daily with the tide. The road is literally built on the ocean floor.
The story of Alexandre Couillon is inspiring. Creating this type of a restaurant on an island that only sees tourists 2 months out of the year yet him and his wife keep the doors open all year long. The restaurant has become a culinary destination. He finds his inspiration of course from the island foraging local ingredients, growing his own produce and working with local fishermen to create new unique dishes. And this is where I came up with this dish.
On the 12th of December 1999 disaster struck the island. During a fierce storm off the coast, an oil tanker called Erika was torn in two, it’s toxic cargo spewing into the sea, devastating the fragile ecosystem of the French west coast. Some of the worst affected areas were the off shore islands.
Fast forward to a day in Alexandre’s kitchen where an accident in the kitchen resulted in what initially seemed like an over reduced squid stock. Initial disappointment at the thick, pitch black congealed liquid in the bottom of a pan suddenly turned to inspiration when Alexandre tasted it. Revelation! It was amazing! Reminded of the Erika oil spill he grabbed an oyster and dragged it through the glossy blackness, the result was the birth of a signature dish.
Now fast forward to my kitchen. We do not usually have access to fresh oysters here, which is a bit surprising as mussels and clams are eaten on a daily basis. But we do have calamari and lots of it and it is cheap. Terri-Lynn always cringes when I bring home these little creatures as inevitably black squid ink will find its way squirted out on our lime green walls. And this is what got me thinking. Rather then washing it down the drain, do something with it. I thought of Alexandre Couillons L’Huitre Noire Erika. I decided I would place the calamari in it’s own ink.
Step 1: Gently detach the head from the body being very careful not to puncture the ink sack. This would be the time when the walls become a canvass for the black goodness.
Step 2: Make a basic stock. I happened to be making a vegetable soup stock this particular day so I conveniently used a bit of that. It is a standard mix of aromatics, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, white wine, bay leaf and herbs de provence.
Step 3: Add the squid ink. In a small pot combine the stock and gently slice open the ink sacks and add the ink with the sacks to the pot. Add a few pieces of crusty white bread. Simmer and reduce. This simmered for about 30 minutes until it reached the desired consistency. I probably could have let it go longer but it was quickly delicious so I was ready to eat!
Step 4: Cook your squid. From a presentation point of view I think a simple “la Plancha” or grilling would have been best. I contemplated and struggled with this. Presentation or enjoyment. Usually I can have both in my cooking. But this time it seemed like I would need to sacrifice one for the other. I knew Terri-Lynn would prefer her calamari fried so that is what I did. I use a combination of 50/50 rice flour and wheat flour. I cut the body into rings and kept the head whole. For this dish I used one ring and one head per plate. Deep fry your flour coated squid in VERY hot oil for about a minute or until golden.
Step 5: Plate. Strain your squid ink bouillon into a small bowl. Drain your fried squid. Living in Spain there are a few items that are considered standard in the kitchen and one happens to be parsley oil. Parsley oil naturally works very well with seafood and especially calamari. I also thought this would add a nice addition of color to the plate. Place a small circle of squid ink bouillon on the bottom of the plate, preferably white. Place one ring and top with the tentacles. Drizzle some parsley oil and done. This dish is a visual treat, a delicious start to a meal and actually very simple and fast to create. Enjoy.
If you make this dish please leave a comment and tell us how it went! Thanks for reading and Bon Appetite!