Inspired by my lunch at Kokkari, I decided to try and make stuffed calamari at home. I figured I'd save tons of money by learning to recreate recipes myself, plus it's always more satisfying to spend $4.99 on a bottle of Trader Joe's Barefoot Bubbly (the best inexpensive sparkling wine available other than the Cristalino Cava for $5.99 at Cost Plus) as opposed to eight bucks for a glass of champagne at a restaurant. Mind you, I'm not opposed to spending money on a good glass of wine while out and about; I love eating out. But right now is a time for budgeting. I just want to be able to budget and still indulge myself. Hence the learning to do it myself at home.
My first attempt, I used wild calamari tubes and tentacles from Andronico's Market (I don't know if it's possible to tame a calamari tube, but I do love the little Cthulhu -esque tentacled bits; I can play Shambling Slithering Horror from Beyond the Stars at the dinner table) for $4.99 a pound.
These were the standard little tubes, about two inches long, all slithery, slippery, and slimy. Definitely time to put on Mud Pie mentality and enjoy playing in the goo. First I tossed 'em in a bowl with garlic infused olive oil, lots of lemon juice, a dash of Rebel Yell whiskey, lemon pepper, and 21 season salute from TJ's. Then I spent about a half hour stuffing the little buggers with chunks of herbed feta cheese (also from TJ's), half of which fell into the olive oil/lemon juice during the process. I tossed the mini Cthulhu bits in as well, put stuffed tubes and tentacles under the broiler on a grilling pan, pouring the rest of the olive oil mix on top. Five minutes of high heat and they were done. Dave and I had 'em with some Barefoot Bubbly and, while different than the ones served at Kokkari (hey, I'm not a 3 star chef!), they were incredibly tasty.
A trip to the local Chinese market on Vincente (a place that deserves its own post just because of the barrel of live bull frogs in the seafood section) led to the discovery that calamari tubes don't just come in the little, hard to stuff size; I could buy three 8 inch long, 5 inch wide tubes for the unbelievably cheap prices of $3.99! It didn't specify if they were wild or not, but I didn't care; I could stuff these puppies in no time.
So last night for dinner I thawed out two of the tubes, prepared the same basic marinade, then made a stuffing out of finely diced tiger shrimp, feta cheese, lemon pepper, cumin, and just a little bit of butter, mushing everything together. It was enough to fill both tubes to bursting and took less than five minutes to prepare from start to putting them under the broiler for 10 minutes, five per side. These calamari tubes were much thicker than the little ones, plus they were filled with about three inches of stuffing. The thought of biting into uncooked calamari was not appealing.
Gotta say, these were even better than the first batch. We didn't have any bubbly this time around, so we opened a bottle of Santerra Dolcetto. An excellent wine, but not my first choice for the dish. So I sipped mineral water with the meal, then enjoyed the Dolcetto while watching REEFER MADNESS: THE MUSICAL, which I'd also recommend. But next time I play with calamari, I think I'll put on DAGON for the proper Lovecraftian atmosphere. I will not, however, be cooking any bull frogs.