GRILLED CALAMARI WITH PICKLED SHISHITO PEPPERS, OLIVES, CHERRY TOMATOES AND DILL
FOR THE CALAMARI 1 kg baby calamari (heads and tentacles) 2 cups buttermilk FOR THE PICKLED SHISHITO PEPPERS 3 cups shishito peppers ¼ cup garlic, diced 1 cup white wine vinegar ½ cup sugar 3 cups water 2 teaspoons salt FOR THE TOASTED BREADCRUMBS 1 cup stale bread 2 tablespoons butter Salt to taste
FOR THE GARNISHES 2 cups cherry tomatoes ½ cup olives, sliced ¼ cup butter 2 lemons 1 tablespoon fresh-picked dill First, clean the calamari. Rinse the squid under cold water. Transfer it to a plate, then place a clean cutting board and knife down on your work station. On the cutting board, lay a calamari out lengthwise, head on one side and tentacles lying flat. Using your fingers, pull the flat head portion from the tentacles to separate them. Next, using your fingers, remove the fins from the side of the tube. Reach inside the tube and pull out any excess cartilage. Throw out the fins and cartilage. Reserve the tubes on a separate plate. To clean the tentacle portion, feel directly above the tentacles. You will feel a firm ball of cartilage. Using your knife, cut directly below it, leaving only the tentacles. Discard the rest. There will be two longer tentacles coming from around the middle. Use two fingers to pull off these long tentacles and discard them. Repeat this step until you have cleaned all of the calamari.
Place all of the tentacles and tubes in a large zip lock bag. Pour the buttermilk into the bag and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. If you have time, you can marinate the mixture overnight, which will tenderize it even further. Place a large pot of water over low heat. Using a thermometer, check the temperature of the water, which should sit at 59 C. If you can’t precisely reach that temperature, try to stay as close as possible. Open the plastic bag of marinated calamari and place it in the water on the stove gradually, letting the water push out all of the air from the bag. Submerge almost all of the bag, except the very top, and zip the bag to lock it. Leave the bag of calamari in the water for 20 minutes – this process of cooking is called sous vide. Once the calamari is done cooking, transfer the bag to a large bowl of ice water to cool down as quick as possible. For the pickled shishito peppers, fill a medium-sized pot of water and place it on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, strain out the water, saving the garlic. Refill the pot with new, cold water, and place the garlic back in the pot. Repeat this process two more times to take the harsh flavors out of the garlic. Once finished, strain all of the water and place the garlic back into the pot. Put all ingredients except for the shishito peppers into the pot and turn the heat to medium-high, bringing it to a simmer. Cut the shishito peppers into small, 1-inch pieces – you should get about five pieces per shishito pepper. Place the cut peppers in a food safe bowl. Once the liquid in the pot has reached a simmer, take it off the heat and pour all of the hot contents over the peppers. Let the peppers sit at room temperature until cool. For the toasted bread crumbs, place small pieces of the bread in a food processor and blend until it reaches a crumb consistency. Place the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and started to bubble, add the crumbs, stirring every minute or so. As the butter browns, the bread crumbs will toast and caramelize. The bread is done when it reaches a golden, light brown colour. Season with salt and reserve. To finish, season a grill with oil using a paper towel or rag to keep the calamari from sticking and heat it to medium. On the stove, put a sauté pan on medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a little oil. Add tomatoes. When they are slightly blistered, add some of the pickled shishito peppers and some of the garlic. Sauté until the tomatoes start to soften. Add the olives and set aside off of the heat. Next, grill the calamari. Cook each piece for about 1 minute per side – be careful to just flavour it with grill marks without overcooking it. Transfer calamari to a food safe plate and slice it into half-inch rings using a knife. Place the shishito pepper and tomato mixture back on the heat. Add the butter and calamari to the pan. Sauté for about 3 more minutes, until the calamari is tender. Season the pan with salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Transfer the calamari to a plate. Garnish with freshly picked dill and sprinkle bread crumbs over top.
Special to The Globe and Mail