Charcoal-Grilled Marinated Squid

Look for wild-caught squid that is harvested sustainably, by trawling or purse seining. Do not be put off by having to clean the squid; it is not that difficult. You will get the best result if you grill the squid over a charcoal and/or wood fire, and it is critical that the fire be very hot. I have cooked the squid on a cast-iron grill pan, but even at high heat, they always steam a bit, and they turn out good but not great.

For a little extra heat, I like to serve Sriracha hot sauce along with the easy sweet-and-sour sauce included in the recipe. The latter has become an all-time favorite in my family, and Alex Farnum, the photographer for this book, declared it a hit on just about everything.

Serves 6 to 8

Marinade
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ½  teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 pounds squid, preferably fresh
Sweet-and-Sour Sauce
¼  cup garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup bird chilies or ¼  cup each habanero and  jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and chopped
¼ cup  fresh coriander roots or stems, smashed or minced,  or ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves and stems
pinch of sea salt
2 cups water
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 ½ cup sugar
cilantro sprigs or fresh mint leaves, for garnish

To make the marinade, in a glass or ceramic bowl, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, pepper, and oil and mix well. Reserve until needed.

To clean each squid, pull the head and tentacles from the body and set aside. Slit the body open along one side, remove and discard the hard “quill,” and rinse out the innards. There is a purple-spotted membrane on the outside of the body that can be removed if you like, though I tend to leave it on. Cut away the eyes from the tentacles and discard, and then pop out the hard, round beak at the base of the tentacles and discard it. Rinse the body and tentacles well. Repeat with the remaining squid.

Skewer the squid bodies through the wide end. Allow them to wrinkle slightly so that you can get about 4 average-size squid onto each 6- to 8-inch metal skewer. (If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water for 20 minutes prior to grilling.) Don’t crowd them, however, as you want a decent amount of surface area touching the grill. Place the skewers and the tentacles in a nonreactive container that allows you to arrange them in a single layer (I use a rimmed stainless-steel baking sheet, but a glass or ceramic baking dish would also work well.) Pour the marinade over the squid, making sure all of the squid surfaces are coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the sauce, in a mortar, combine the garlic, chiles, coriander roots (if using minced cilantro, reserve to add later), and salt and smash with a pestle until a paste forms. Alternatively, chop the ingredients finely in a food processor. Transfer the paste to a nonreactive saucepan and add the water, vinegar, and sugar. Place over medium- high to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil until reduced by two-thirds.

You want a very concentrated consistency. Remove from the heat and add the minced cilantro, if using. Let cool and reserve until needed.

Prepare a hot charcoal and/or wood fire in a grill. When the fire is ready (make sure it is quite hot), place the skewered squid on the grill rack directly over the fire. Place the tentacles in a grilling basket and place alongside the squid. Squid cooks very quickly, so don’t take your eyes off the grill. Shake the tentacles around in the grilling basket a bit and pull them off as soon as you see nice caramelization around the edges and they have firmed up a little. This should not take but a minute or two. Cook the squid bodies on one side for a couple of minutes, drizzling with a little marinade, then turn and do the same on the other side. (I have also sprayed a vegetable grilling pan with nonstick cooking spray and cooked them on the pan. It kind of stir-fries them.)

To serve, remove the squid bodies from the skewers and arrange them attractively on a platter with the tentacles. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and serve the sweet-and-sour sauce in a bowl on the side. Alternatively, drizzle the sauce on the squid and then garnish with the cilantro.