March 20, 2010

Week 4: Grilled Calamari with Beans and Chorizo

Up this week is yet another Contigo-inspired dish. One of many great dishes we had during my birthday dinner was calamari cooked a la planxa (on a flat top) with red tolosa beans, chorizo, and allioli. It was one of our favorite dishes that night (along with the scallop and black rice dish).

For our version, I used San Franciscano beans from Rancho Gordo. I hadn't tried them before, but I was told they were similar to Rio Zape beans, which would pair well with chorizo.

After a quick soak, I simmered the beans for a few hours with some onions that had been cooked in a little lard (recovered from Boccalone pancetta). Then I seared some diced Spanish chorizo and used the oil to cook some minced onion, celery, and red bell pepper. After returning the chorizo to the pan with a splash of beer, I added the mixture to the bean pot and let the beans finish cooking for about an hour, reducing the broth to a nice sauce.

When I need squid, I usually go to Sun Fat for fresh, local squid. It tastes better than the frozen squid, and I can do a more careful job of cleaning it than the commercial stuff. (BTW, squid is dirt cheap. I often feel bad walking out of there having only spent a few bucks.) Unfortunately, they'd run out of it on Saturday, so I had to use frozen squid instead. The squid got a quick marinade in some olive oil, lemon zest, and paprika before hitting the grill pan. Despite being previously frozen, I managed to get a little bit of caramelization and a nice hint of the paprika.

The final component of the dish was the allioli, which didn't quite work out for me. According to Wikipedia, it is the Catalan version of aioli that uses only garlic, olive oil, and salt. Via some mortar and pestle magic, you're supposed to be able to emulsify garlic in oil without using any egg yolk. I found a video of it being done, but I didn't quite pull it off. I started out with the mortar and pestle but was having trouble getting it to work right. So I gave up on the mortar and pestle and switched to my Cuisinart mini-prep. That didn't work because the portion was too small to get the garlic into the blades. At this point, I knew I was pretty much screwed, so I tried the blender. The blender looked like it was working, but the resulting sauce didn't have the right texture and quickly separated. I did end up with a nicely garlic-flavored olive oil, which I spooned on top. After a subsequent visit, I think Contigo is using a little egg yolk to help the emulsification (and possibly a little lemon juice to balance flavors), so I'll probably do that next time to get the texture I want.

Overall the dish was quite good. We'll definitely make it again, probably with some chorizo-laced black rice instead of beans, so I can make it on a weeknight. The beans did turn out really well, though. I will be making them again too.

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