Tentacled sea monsters swimming with green friends
Cuttlefish, like squid, are to the sea what grasshoppers, or more closely snails, are to the grass food chain. If you like eating any of the above then your (reduced cholesterol) protein intake is having a party. Going further, having the cuttlefish or squid swim around in a parsley, onion and tomato based sauce is nothing more than keeping to concept.
Many markets sell squid and cuttlefish whole, cleaned, fresh and frozen. Buying them whole and cleaning them is easier than imaginable (how to clean squid and cuttlefish), and nothing is to be said if you choose to buy them dressed or literally undressed and ready to cook. That is cleaned.
I do not see squid, cuttlefish or octopus as sea monsters, but Tim, a good friend who saw me cook them often found himself challenged whilst they were going into the pot. Luckily this sense of challenge never reached the table. Tim became an amusing sea monster eater with a good underwater barnacle fantasy story to go with.
1 kg small cuttlefish or squid, cleaned, tubes sliced in rings (only if they are big)
600 g onion, sliced in thin wedges
1 head of garlic
7 branches flat leaf parsley
1 red chili pepper
500 g tomato, diced small
5 Tbsp olive oil
6 Tbsp fish sauce
salt to taste
1 kg green beans
Cut off the bottom of a garlic head and lay it root side down on a cutting board. With the blade side of a large butcher knife, tap on the top of the garlic head vigorously to separate the cloves. Remove the loosened skin and slice each clove lengthwise. Marinate the cloves in the olive oil with the salt in a large bowl. Chop the parsley, onions and finely dice the chili. Add them to the garlic marinade, stir and set aside. Cut the tomatoes in half, removing the seeds and strain them through a sieve over a medium sized bowl to collect the juices. Finely dice the tomatoes and add them to the bowl where you have collected the juices and leave aside. Discard the seeds. Removing the seeds will stop the sauce from acquiring a bitter flavour.
Warm a large skillet over medium to high heat and add the garlic, onion and parsley marinade, cooking and stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned and delicately sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is important to keep the heat steady and high enough to brown but not to burn the marinade. This will impart a delicate caramelised flavour to the sauce. While the marinade is browning rinse the cleaned cuttlefish or squid in a sieve through cold water and transfer to a bowl with the fish sauce and leave aside. When the onions have reached the caramelisation point, add the tomatoes and their juice and cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes. The sauce will release more liquid, a perfect medium to cook the squid or cuttlefish. At this point add the cleaned cuttlefish or squid and cook uncovered at a low and constant simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the cuttlefish or squid are cooking, clean the green beans, remove the stem end and steam them over boiling water for 10 minutes.
Serve in deep plates with the green beans. The cuttlefish or squid can be prepared ahead of time and warmed up before serving.