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The Case of the Shrinking Squid

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I cannot get fresh squid around here, so have to use the frozen stuff. No big deal, maybe.

But in two different recipes I notice that it shrinks when cooked. The first time was when making squid ribbons for one of Heinz Becks incredible finger foods.

Then, yesterday I made one of Mario Batali's dishes: Stuffed Squid on the Grill. This requires boiling the bodies until soft. They also shrunk tremendously, winding up a great size for appetisers. But not what I expected.

Would fresh squid make a difference? Or is shrinking the nature of the beast?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #2 of 12
Just like us humans, squid are made up of a lot of water. The freezing/thawing process that bursts cell walls makes it easier for it to give up more of that water. So it's possible that fresh will lose less water and shrink less, although I don't remember how much less. (It's been a long time since I've cooked fresh squid; mostly I also get thawed frozen stuff, which has already been cleaned -- a big advantage. :lol: )

Remember too that the squid bodies are almost pure protein, which seizes up and shrinks when heated.

Which book is that recipe in? I can't think why Mario would say to boil the squid before grilling. Maybe so that the boiling will break down the protein fibers and tenderize the squid to the point where the grilling won't make it seize? What's the total cooking time on the grill? I know when I "grill" squid (cast-iron grill pan), I cook it very quickly. The usual kitchen wisdom is to cook squid for 45 seconds or 45 minutes; anything in between gives you tough stuff.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hmmmmmmm. I had learned the squid rule as two minutes or twenty minutes but nothing in between.

I had gotten the recipe off a different website, but it came from his "Simple Italian Food: Recipes From My Two Villages book. Mario specifies fresh squid.

Basically, you boil the bodies for a hour to soften them. Cool them. Stuff them with a filling of breadcrumbs, sun dried tomatoes, herbs and oil. When ready to grill you brush them with oil and put them on the grill just long enough for a char to form on each side. They get served with a fresh tomato/chive relish.

Mario grills the tentacles too. But I reserved them, dusted with seasoned flour, and deep fried them for a textural change, which worked nicely.

Tastewise they came out very good. But I had no idea they would shrink as small as they did. On average, each squid body wound up about the size of my thumb. And I wound up with a whole bunch of extra stuffing mix; enough to do at least another pound or two after they shrunk like that.

With flash freezing and slow defrosting in the fridge, there shouldn't be all that much cell damage. I never noticed this shrinking when breading and frying them. At least not to the degree it showed up in this recipe and in the Heinze Beck one.

Is a definate puzzlement.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 12
Considering the amount a steak shrinks when cooked to well done, this doesn't really surprise me if a squid is being cooked for that long.

My aunt stuffs large cuttlefish and I can only presume they shrink a lot as well, although they are still a couple of inches in diameter.

I personally like to just count to between thirty and forty-five if I'm deep frying squid before taking it out.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #5 of 12
I buy frozen baby squid heads for Paella....and to fry for personal consumption, thawed in the fridge I've not noticed a huge loss.....hmmmmm
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #6 of 12
When I make stuffed squid, I never precook the bodies. I still don't understand why this recipe does.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
You'll have to ask Mario Batali why, Suzanne. It ain't my recipe, and I have no answer.

How do you do yours?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 12
I'm theorizing but it seems mario is giving a tradional recipe. Maybe it's pre-refrigeration. The boiling was done when the calamari came fresh to preserve it. Still see no reason to do this today.
Personally I would never boil calamari but cook it at 160ºf for less shrinkage and loss of flavor. Comes out tenderer too.
post #9 of 12
Like Suzanne, i suspect you are over cooking the squid. If I were to cook stuff squid, I would cook the stuffing first, let it cool, stuff it in raw squid then grill them quickly. But, that's my opinion.
post #10 of 12
Pretty much the way Bond Girl says: make a stuffing, cooking it if need be. (If it's just bread crumbs and herbs/seasonings, or has precooked protein, I don't feel I have to cook it.) Then stuff the bodies and either finish them quickly in the grill pan (no real grill here :( ) or stew them for a long time in tomato sauce, adding fresh peas near the end of cooking.

Bond Girl has had them when I just marinated the empty bodies and threw them in the cast-iron skillet for maybe 30 seconds on each (flattened) side, at most a minute total. They did seize up then, which is why I said what I said upthread.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #11 of 12
Yes, and they were pretty delicious too!

As for the cooked stuffing, I like to stuff my squids with arborio rice stirred with a bit of cayenne and squid ink. Very delicious that way. You can stick it on a very hot pan with some oil, but If you have a grill, even better! Make sure, your pan or grill is really really hot. Squid loses all its flavors when over cooked, that when people don't like them.
post #12 of 12
KYHeirloomer

The answer to your question is simply this.

STPP
Sodium TriPoly Phospate

Seafood producers use it to excess most of the time.

The scallop processing industry first discovered the value of STPP about 25 years ago. You can take 100 lbs of scallops and soak them in water with a 4% STPP blend.
STPP forces the scallop muscle to absorb more water. (Envision a lobster right before it molts and sheds its shell to grow a size)

After just 4 hours, that 100 lbs of scallops will now weigh 115 lbs. Just added water and nothing else.

Its use is rampant in many frozen seafood products.
The problem is that once you thaw, and especially when you cook it, all that excess water the processor picked up (and you paid for) purges out.

I have seen squid lose 50% of it's weight after thawing and cooking.

I'm really curious what origin and specie you were using, do you know?

Loligo Pelei is US East Coast Squid AKA Boston Squid
Loligo Opalences is west coast squid
Loligo Vulgaris is mostly from South America and SE Asia
Loligo Chinesis is found mostly around China

The Cat Man
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