It’s amazing what you can do in the kitchen on a budget, with a little bit of effort and know-how. In our ongoing efforts to diversify our everyday-meal repertoire, while still being (somewhat) conscious of budgetary and moral restraints, Molly and I have been hitting the seafood counter at the Morrisons down the road quite regularly. We noticed an increase in lesser known fish and rarer fruits de mer starting about 6 months ago, just around the time I came across several recent educational attempts by British celeb-chefs dealing with the country’s seafood industry, particularly around issues of sourcing and sustainability. (I’m planning another post or two on the celeb-chef phenomenon itself, but for the time being I’ll just admit up front that, despite the tinge of English snobbery, I adore Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and think Jamie Oliver is definitely, to use Anthony Bourdain’s maxim, “good for the world.” In this case, witness Hugh’s Fish Fight and Jamie’s Fish Supper.)
At any rate, one thing I took away from these info-vids is the good ole’ maxim that, while there are certainly different ways citizens can push for better food-options in our society, we nevertheless really do vote with our dollar. So one practical way to fight the uphill battle against a dreadfully wasteful bottom-line seafood industry is to make it a habit to increase and diversify your seafood consumption, while laying off the major sourcing offenders (which are, of course, the most popular — tuna, salmon, haddock, cod, etc.) . Less moralistically, the challenge to diversify coupled with the guideline of knowing what you don’t want can lead, at it has for me and seafood, to a tangible sense of experimentation in the kitchen. If you care at all about how meat is produced and sourced, and are on anything like a food budget, buying protein is an ongoing battle. Being able and willing to experiment with a wide array of fish and seafood is one way to climb that mountain. Many fishmongers or grocery-store seafood counters will, if you ask, tell you what the best deals are, be relatively honest about what’s fresh, and take notice of what you’re looking for.
So it was that I got a small pack of about-to-go-on-clearance squid, which had just been taken off the ice from the day before, cut up and packaged. (Buying squid whole and figuring out how to take it apart is definitely the recommended way, but I saw no reason to pass up on these still-fresh cuts.) I also picked up some coley and Scottish rainbow trout for under a pound per piece, which went straight to the freezer, but this post is to highlight what became of that £1 squid.
Having never fried squid before, I did a quick google search to see how different the recommended techniques were to shallow-frying most other fish. (I usually use the flour, egg, breadcrumb method. For this I ended up taking a few tips from here and there, and winging it.) I cut the “body” of the squid into rings of an inch or so, and soaked the (lightly seasoned) squid in milk, mainly to soften it up a bit. After soaking about 15 min., I covered the squid in a half-and-half blend of semolina and plain white flour, every bit from the tentacles to the rings (and even the parsley). I then shallow-fried the squid in a pan just-covered with a blended sesame/sunflower oil. Obviously when not using a deep-fryer the trick is to make sure the fried food gets covered with oil on all sides; I found with the calimari that a good tactic for doing this without using tons of oil is to pick up the pan and tilt to one side, holding it off the heat so that the oil converges on one side.
After a couple minutes, we had some beautiful lightly-fried squid, with a wedge of lime (we were out of lemon) and some crispy kale on the side. I dipped mine in a homemade creole sauce that gave it a bit more heat and saltiness, but it was excellent on its own. For under £2 and about 20 min. in the kitchen, I’m counting this first-time homemade recipe a win.