Not all of Chef Varin’s work happens in the kitchen. An avid outdoorsman, Varin can be found fishing and foraging on a regular basis. Below, he gives us a glimpse into his life on the Puget Sound—recipes and all.
Chef Varin: “In the fading hours of fall and winter daylight, Seattle’s waterfront illuminates with lights beaming toward the water. Generators rumble, fishing fables grow, and camera flashes momentarily blind as the local squid fisherman recharge their glow in dark squid jigs and attempt to fill their buckets with a delicious Puget sound cephalopod: the humble squid.
Squid fishing in Washington is fun and easy to learn. Best of all, the rewards are delicious. People willing to weather the wind, rain, cold, and sometimes even snow can be found gathered on the Puget Sound’s public docks August through February. Although squidding is allowed year round, the ink squirting critters come closer to shore to spawn in the winter months. The best prepared bring a thermos … or a flask!
The gear needed to catch squid is fairly inexpensive: A light action rod around 7 feet, a small reel with 10 pound test line or 20 pound braided line, and a few squid jigs. You’ll also want rain gear, warm clothes, a headlamp, scissors, and the all-important bucket. At this time, the limit in Washington is 10 pounds of squid and buckets are the best way to measure: One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds for reference!
It also helps to have a friend with a massive light and generator, but it isn’t necessary. Head down to a public dock and you will find many people already have lights set up—some will even invite you to fish by their light.
Squid is versatile, high in protein, affordable, and delicious. It can be prepared in a multitude of ways: grilling, raw, flash seared, braised, fried, blanched and used in salads … and more. It’s funny to me that some people are still squeamish when it comes to squid. Perhaps NPR’s “This American Life” podcast that is to blame: http://gothamist.com/2013/01/14/is_that_calamari_or_pig_rectum.php
For my part, I’ve eaten squid my entire life, and it is one of my favorite foods! I catch a lot of salmon year round and willingly gift some away, but I guard my squid like a compulsive hoarder!
One thing to consider when preparing squid is that it can become a little rubbery if overcooked. It is definitely one of those proteins where you either cook it quickly, or cook it for a long time in order for it to become very tender. The recipe that follows utilizes squid’s unique shape.”
Grilled Chanterelle Stuffed Squid
12 ea squid, tubes and tentacles – approx. 4”-6”
2 oz olive oil
2 oz shallot–sliced
1 Tbsp garlic–minced
1 lb chanterelle mushroom–or any other mushroom you like!
2 oz white wine
1/2 oz lemon–juice and zest
1 oz parsley fresh–chopped
1/4 oz oregano fresh–chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
Salt to taste
Procedure: Clean squid and reserve tubes and tentacles. Here are some instructions for that! In a saucepan sauté shallot and garlic in oil. Add chanterelle and cook until slightly softened. Deglaze with white wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook until most of liquid is reduced. Cool mixture. Combine cold mushroom mixture with tentacles. Stuff each tube with filling ensuring each one gets a surprise tentacle. Seal the tubes by threading a skewer or toothpick Oil, season, and grill the squid tubes over high heat until cooked. You can enjoy this squid dish with aioli, Romesco, or any sauce you like.
Note: you can change the stuffing as you like, say: pine nuts, raisins, kale, pork sausage, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, whatever floats your boat. Just be aware that a raw filling—such as raw sausage—will require a longer cooking time on the grill.
Meyer Lemon-Garlic Aioli
1 ea egg
2 ea egg yolk
1/4 oz garlic–minced
1/2 oz Dijon
1 tsp salt
1 oz meyer lemon juice
1 ea meyer lemon – zest
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
12 oz olive oil
Procedure: Combine all ingredients except oil in food processor and process until smooth. Drizzle in oil with machine running and slowly emulsify oil. Once all oil in incorporated, adjust seasoning. Feel free to add whatever you would like to this formula as well. Some good additions would be: fresh herbs, saffron, chili, anything pickled, red pepper puree, olive, etc.
Grilled Chanterelle Stuffed Squid Cocktail Pairing
1/4 oz Ancho Rayes Ancho Chili Liquor
¼ oz Vin Santo Dessert Wine
3 oz Breakside Passionfruit Sour Ale
Mix first three ingredients in a chilled rocks glass. Top off the beer. Lightly stir to mix.
*Best if all ingredients are refrigerated before mixing.
*This cocktail recipe is portioned as a pairing cocktail, double the proportion if you would like a more traditional sized cocktail.