Gabe the Fish Babe: Gettin' Jiggy With It
By: Gabrielle Stommel, June 14, 2012
Gabe the Fish Babe - An inspired seafood blogger and a young fishmonger of fresh, day-boat New England species, this modern-day mermaid comes from a long line of seafaring Cape Codders. In this column, Gabe encourages readers to expand their minds and mouths to local, abundant, underutilized seafood - and hopes to bring awareness to a creature on the brink of extinction: the American commercial fisherman.
Squid season is well underway on the Cape. Everyone from full-fledged commercial fisherman to random renegade squid-jiggers are catching their fill of these elusive, intriguing cephalopods.
When I was a little girl my commercial fisherman father would complain that the squidders on the dock were using his boat as a launch pad for their activities, inadvertently drizzling the dark staining ink on the deck.
Nowadays you can buy jars of squid ink for a wholesale value of more than $30 per gram. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to delve into a nice squid-ink risotto, I highly recommend you give it a try. But good luck finding someone local who knows how to prepare the dish!
Fresh squid are some of the most scrumptious seafood in the world—but let’s face it, they are delicate and finicky. You need real finesse in the kitchen to be able to cook them (or not cook them) to perfection.
We have squids coming out of our ears this time of year in Point Judith, RI. But just because squid are sometimes used for lobster bait doesn’t mean they are garbage. My friend Chef Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston sometimes freezes my beautiful fresh squid (which would be perfect for your plate) and packs them up to use as lobster bait later in the year.
I think that’s really funny, but I am a fish nerd.
Fresh, not fried
You can tell if your squids are fresh by first staring them straight in the eyeball. Their eyeballs should look like cartoons, white with a clear and not-weepy black dot right in the center.
Next notice the color of the squid’s skin. If it’s clear, it was probably just caught; if it’s turning dark purple, it’s a tad older. If the skin is very dark, the squid may have been “refreshed,” that is, frozen and then slacked out to a refreshed state. This is common practice in the seafood industry.
It’s very rare to get a squid that is still clear and white because they go dark fast. Don’t be alarmed: just smell the squid. If it’s pungent or rotten-smelling, it’s time to use them for bait.
If the last time you had squid for dinner was with your mom at Chili’s after a trip to the mall they were probably fried stiff. Many “seafood restaurants” use the frozen Chilean variety, which are nearly unrecognizable to the naked eye.
Step up your game and try out squid jigging for yourself. All you need is a simple pole, a line fitted with several hooks, and a strong flashlight—some dedicated folks even use a generator. Not only is it a good way to pass an evening, your tastebuds will thank you!