Article first published as “Risotto al nero di seppia” on Blogcritics.
I went to my fishmonger the other day and he was having the most fabulous squid on display. Fresh, non-cleaned, the whole beast. I could not let that opportunity go and purchased it immediately. When asked whether I wanted it cleaned, I declined the offer, as I had something special in mind. I needed the ink-sack for my dish, so I didn’t want anybody to mess with the squid’s offal.
So, what’s so special about this dish? This is a typical dish from the north-eastern part of Italy (Veneto) and does require a bit of work to prepare. Still, the tastes and aromas it gives are just wonderful, so nobody should mind the extra work. I am talking about “risotto al nero di seppia” or, translated into English, “Squid black risotto”.
So, let’s get started. For this you’ll need (let’s say 3/4 people):
- an medium sized onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- a whole squid
- Arborio rice (about 350-400g / 13-14USOz)
- white wine
First of all, we need to clean the squid and retrieve the ink sack intact. Work carefully, especially if this is the first time you do this. Use a big apron, latex gloves and do the job in the sink. If ink starts getting out, you get covered in black. That thing is very “stainful” and even a tiny drop will keep you cleaning for a long time. OK, now that you are ready and covered, put your calamari on a cutting board, flat and extended. Grab the head (or tube) with one hand and gently pull the tentacles/eyes/guts unit with the other. It should give some resistance at the beginning but will easily slide off afterwards. Set the tube aside and let’s collect the ink. The ink sack looks like a little bag just above the eyes and below the stomach. Work on top of a bowl (in case you break it) and cut it out, gently. Set it aside and dispose of the guts and entrails of the animal. I have found this video that could help some of you (it is not me in there).
At this point, it becomes easy again Cut the tentacles from the rest, just below the eyes. Get rid of the beak (the mouth/teeth) and wash the whole thing carefully under cold water and cut it into small bits.
At this point, we can prepare the risotto. Chop and mince your onion and garlic and toss them in a cooking pot (I usually use my Le Creuset Dutch oven) where they will gently golden in a table spoon of olive oil.
When nicely golden, add the chopped cephalopod in the pot and let cook for a couple of minutes at medium-high heat while stirring it. Reduce heat and add a couple of glasses of white wine. Simmer in wine for about 5 minutes and add the ink. Properly stir, making sure that the ink has been diluted properly and is distributed well in the pot.
You can now add the rice in. Carefully mix the rice and the calamaro stew and add stock to cover, while you are still on low heat. Remember to regularly stir the rice and to add stock when it gets dry. Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice is cooked to your taste. Add some salt, if you wish, and you are done. You can now enjoy this great dish, sipping some Chardonnay, Chablis or even a Chenin blanc.
Prost and buon appetito!
PS: you can naturally do exactly the same with cuttlefish!