I’m really hooked on this stuff. Aside from a stark presentation squid ink enriches a dish and makes it taste like the sea (in a good way).
The easiest and surest way to procure squid ink is by purchasing the concentrated form in either a jar or in packets. Many delicatessens that specialize in either Italian or Spanish foods will carry it. In Manila you can purchase it at Terry’s.
If you want to try harvesting it yourself go for it but make sure you buy squid that isn’t cleaned and ask your fishmonger to help you find the inkiest squids. Often they expel it when they are caught. Isn’t it a little bit ironic how we enjoy foods like this and chili peppers because of their natural defenses?
Now, as far as rice, people make a lot of fuss about which rice to use in risotto. The traditional rice varieties for risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. However sushi rice will work as well. Look for a starchy, short grain rice and don’t spend a fortune on rice from an opposite corner of the globe.
When making risotto consistency is everything. It gets screwed up about 90% of the time but it’s actually not that difficult. Just follow a few basic tips.
- Risotto should be a saucy consistency and should flow on the plate. It is not paella.
- Serve immediately on a hot plate. It must be eaten immediately or it will seize up and be crappy.
- Don’t overcook the rice!
Risotto Nero with Squid, Shrimp and Asparagus
5 small squid
4 large (12-16 ct) shrimp
6 medium asparagus stalks
1 ½ cups Arborio or short grain rice
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken or seafood stock (fresh or sodium free packaged stock)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 packets squid ink concentrate
5-7 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
Prepare a mixing bowl with ice water for an ice bath. Place a medium sauce pot with salted water on high heat and bring to boil. Cut fibrous portion from asparagus stalks and discard. Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and add to boiling water. Boil just until barely tender and quickly strain and plunge into ice bath. Once cooled remove the asparagus and set aside.
Prepare your squid by peeling off the skin and cleaning out the head cavity. Rinse and cut into rings and tentacles. Peel shrimp and remove veins from back. In the same sauce pot add your stock, fresh thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Quickly poach squid in the stock until it is just cooked. Then poach shrimp just until the shrimp curls and turns opaque.
In a large sauté pan add olive oil, onions and garlic on medium heat. Cook until onions are soft then add rice. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until the rice becomes opaque. Add squid ink and stir. If the stock begins to run out, just add water and bring to a simmer. Then add white wine and cook until the smell of alcohol is gone.
Now begin adding your hot stock, one ladle at a time until the rice is just covered with liquid. Simmer until the liquid begins to dry up, stirring constantly. Repeat until the rice is beginning to soften but still al dente.
Finish by adding butter and stirring in. Season and correct the consistency with extra stock if needed. Add the seafood and asparagus to the simmering stock just until hot. Spoon the risotto into a pasta bowl and garnish with seafood and asparagus.