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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Vigilia Stuffed Calamari

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

What is the Feast of the Seven Fishes? "It's what Italians do when they say they're fasting." More precisely, the Feast is a meal served in Italian households on La Vigilia (Christmas Eve). In many parts of Southern Italy, the night is traditionally a partial fast, during which no meat should be served. But in true Italian style, this proscription has morphed into something very un-fast-like indeed: course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as 7, 10, or even 13. No one's quite sure of the significance of the number. Some families do seven for the sacraments. Some do ten for the Stations of the Cross. And some even do 13 for the 12 apostles plus Jesus. Regardless of the religious symbolism, for most people the main point of the meal is to gather family and friends and enjoy delicious food. This is only one recipe. Enjoy it and Happy Vigilia. 

Serve 4

Ingredients

4 whole squid, 5- 7 inches in length

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 medium size anchovies

1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced 

1 cup red wine 

1 24 oz. (1 can) Italian crushed tomatoes or passata

Stuffing

2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil 

½ white onion, minced

1½ garlic cloves minced, plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ thick slice pancetta, diced small (optional)

½ fennel bulb, diced

Salt to taste

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 slice-day-old Italian bread, pulsed in food processor to make breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced

½ sprig rosemary, finely chopped

½ dried red chili, finely chopped 

¼ lemon rind finely grated

Procedure

To prepare squid, gently pull off the tentacles so the insides come out as well. Cut just underneath the eyes and set the tentacles aside. Remove and discard any beak from the tentacles. Discard the eyes and any insides and gently pull cartilage from the hood and discard. A pinch of salt on your fingers will help to grip the skin on the hood as you remove it. Wash calamari gently.

For the stuffing, heat olive oil in a small saucepan, add onion and chopped garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add pancetta and fennel, cook for a few more minutes. Adjust flavors with salt. Add white wine and simmer until evaporated.

In a large bowl, add mixture to breadcrumbs, parsley, rosemary, chili, salt and pepper, crushed garlic and lemon rind.

Place approximately 2 tsp of stuffing into prepared squid. Don’t overfill. Leave a finger space inside, as mixture will expand when cooking. Use a toothpick to attach tentacles to stuffed squid.

Preheat oven to 325 F. 

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add anchovies and garlic. When anchovies have infused in the oil, place stuffed squid in the frying pan and seal. Add red wine and crushed tomatoes and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.

Gently transfer squid and sauce into a narrow baking dish. If the sauce doesn’t cover the squid, add water. Bake for 35 minutes.

Serve with rocket salad and lemon wedges on the side, or simply toss with your favorite pasta.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  Check out the Chef's website and blog.

 

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