I popped in the local grocery store to buy chicken breasts, and after chatting with a woman from Senegal who praised the benefits of seafood, I walked out with a package of fresh squid.
Not having prepared squid before, I turned to the internet.
How hard could it be to prepare and cook a squid?
I knew I was in trouble when I read "first cut through the arms near the eyes."
I'm sorry, the what now?
"Then," it continues, "with your thumb and forefinger" (seriously?) "squeeze out the inedible beak."
The beak. The beak? Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot?
"Reserve the tentacles."
Sweet Moses on a cracker.
"Feel inside the mantle" whatever that is "for the chitinous pen." Ditto.
I look up mantle. "A loose sleeveless garment." Nope. "A figurative cloak." Nope. "A soft external body wall that lines the test or shell of a tunicate..." Sounds about right.
I look up chitinous. "A horny polysaccaride that forms part of the hard outer integument especially of insects, arachnids, and crustaceans."
Going three for three, I look up pen. "A small enclosure for animals." Nope. "An implement for writing." Nope. "The internal horny" (there's that word again) "feather-shaped shell of a squid." Bingo.
Now that I know what a chitinous pen inside a mantle is, I look up what I'm supposed to do with it.
"Firmly grasp the pen and attached viscera and twist it from mantle." Okay, I don't even have to look up viscera to know it's nasty, and I would imagine squid viscera is especially so.
I regret ever meeting that woman from Senegal. Damn her and her persuasive squid sales pitch.
"Wash and drain the mantle, which you can now stuff. Arms can be minced, chopped up or left whole."
I am encouraged to harvest the squid ink from the ink sac, a thin and silvery beauty nestled in the innards, by puncturing the ink sac and squeezing it into a small bowl. I am advised I won't get much ink, but "a little goes a long way." If I find myself wanting more (as if) "small deposits of ink can be found behind the eyes."
Holy Mother of Pearl.
Update: When I opened the package of fresh squid, I was beyond delighted to see it was already relieved of its chitinous pen and was as clean as a nun's whistle. Yippee. Game on.
Update #2: Despite the fact that every time I walked by the bowl of raw squid I flinched, I breaded it, fried it and watched the miracle of conversion from a chitinous hot mess into calamari. A Most Excellent Meal was had by all. And by all, I mean me and Doug.
yes, I know I'm not a food photographer...check out the squid arms which I decided to leave whole, as the idea of chopping them up hit a ten on the squeamish-o-meter
Note to self: no more squid before bed.
Update #4, and the last one, I promise. Holy Calamari Batman, this really happened to a diver! Read about it here.