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3's Newfound Love of Cooking: Kids Cooking Squids

Three-year-old No. 3 got to drop in on a cooking class a few weeks back.  I love San Francisco and the fact that kids can 'pick up' a cooking class thanks to our spectacular Parks & Rec department.  When we ate dinner that night, she beamed, and said she'd had a blast, and also really enjoyed her friends helping her.  To me , this was awesome!  Not only had 3 made friends in a pick up class, she'd worked with them!  This led to two really cool thing!  First, less than ten days later, 3 made her first friend all by herself at our local branch library!  They drew pictures, sang and quietly talked with each other!

The second thing that happened was that 3 wanted to make squid!  She'd seen me, along with seven year-old No. 1 and five-year-old No. 2 make it before.  She wanted in on the game.  That weekend, when she and I went to the 'redhat' market, one of our treasured local markets, for our weekly meat, fish and egg run, she asked if we could get squid.  Then she insisted, (politely), that we get squid.  It sounded good to me, so I got a bag to put the squid in at which point 3 told me she'd be happy to hold it.  And so it was that one of the redhat staff saw what they thought was a man happily dumping squid on the ground.  A quick offer of help while peering over the ice tray revealed to them that 3 had things well in hand.

We hiked back up the hill to our house where the next day, 3 asked if she could help cook the squid.  We set out a plate on a chair where she could reach, and got right to it.

Squid Pen
The first step was to prepare the squid to be fried.  There's a piece of cartilage that runs the length of their hoods, and appears, to me, to support/hold all their internal organs.  I unhooked the cartilage, (technically called the pen), from the bottom of the hood, and then passed the squid to 3 instructing her to grab the hood tightly, and then pull the head and tentacles out.  She grabbed, tugged, and then handed me the hood in one hand along with the head, tentacles, and guts in the other (did you know cephalopod, the family squid and octopuses belong to, literally means head-foot?)  I put the hood on the plate, then cut off the tentacles just below the eyes being careful to make sure I popped the beak out from its mouth (see notes on larger squid below), and threw the eyes and guts into the compost bag.  We were having so much fun that before long 1 and 2 wanted in on the game as well, and we made quick work of the dozen or so squid.

I took over when it came time to slice the hood into rings.  The first few times we did this I cut open the hood to make sure I scraped out all the white mucousy stuff left after we'd pulled out the guts.  This time, I let it slide (gross pun not intended.  Honest!)  I think leaving it in made the final dish taste better.  I put a little vegetable oil in a frying pan and turned on the stove so it could heat up.

Having all the pieces on one plate, I made a pile of batter mix we picked up at the store on another plate.  3 got to work rolling all the squid pieces in the batter.  As she got them coated, I took them out and tossed them into the frying pan.  You can tell if it's hot enough by throwing in a little batter.  If it sizzles, it's hot enough.  Once the squid was in the pan, I turned it every few minutes for no more than seven or ten minutes.  As the exposed pieces turned a light purple, I took them out of the pan and placed them on a plate to cool down.

Having all participated in the cooking, the four of us proceeded to chow down on homemade calamari!  2 and 3 discovered that they loved cocktail sauce which they thought tasted just like ketchup!

Notes on big squid and aromas (shall we say):  Our house smells like cooking squid every time we do this.  It's not a big deal since here in San Francisco we can leave all the windows open, and the aroma abates in a few hours.  Still, it's something you might like to know ahead of time.  Second, let's talk about squid the size of bowling pins.  They're a different sort of beast, so to speak.  OK, they're the exact same beast, and they taste just as good, but there are a few things to know ahead of time.  They have honest to goodness beaks!  Beaks the size of a small hawk or kestrel I'd say.  You'll want to make sure you cut them off before you cook.  They also have rings with jagged edges, (teeth?), in their suckers.  The kids were fascinated with them, and so helpfully popped them all out.  Finally, their guts are proportionately larger.  Also, the hood of ours was filled with a brown-yellow packed sort of goo.  It slides right out, and goes into the compost.  It didn't seem to affect the taste at all, but again, it might be nice to know ahead of time.

The super nice people at Yangtze Market, our 'redhat market', (because of the red awning), told us how to cook squid.  I'm just passing along their instructions along with our experiences.  If you're in Excelsior, the place is well worth checking out!


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