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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« buckwheat crepes with leek and gruyere: a craving revived | Main | prosciutto salmon with pasta and zucchini ribbons »
Sunday
Nov092008

a culinary epiphany leads to stuffed squid

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When Paul suggested we splurge on dinner at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant during our honeymoon in France in 2003, I shrugged, and said: “Who’s Paul Bocuse”?

Preferring to travel to far-flung places in Latin America eating soup in crowded markets, I knew nothing of the the culinary giants of France.

Paul, on the other hand, would have been blissed out dining in one of Paris’s great bistros enjoying a perfectly-cooked steak au poivre and slurping down a big, complex, earthy Bordeaux.

Our marriage celebrated the happy pairing of the two worlds. He introduced me to coq au vin; I introduced him to Mexican mole. He explained the history of Beaujolais; I expounded on the flavor and texture of queso fresco.

I don’t remember exactly what we ate at Bocuse's famous restaurant in Lyon, but I do remember that our seven-course meal was an onslaught of perfection, one dish after the next, with light sauces that did not overwhelm but completely satisfied. A Beaujolais sorbet between courses cleansed and brightened our palates.

About half way through our meal, a large figure dressed in chefs whites wearing a tall, perfectly crisp chef’s hat appeared from the kitchen. He walked slowly, as if in a wedding procession, by each table. When he reached our table he turned toward us and stopped.

My education about France and cooking and wine had taken a slow and winding path but I knew enough to understand that one of the greatest figures in the Western culinary world was standing in front of me.

I had never seen the man and didn’t even know what he looked like, but there he was, larger than I ever imagined. His chef’s hat made him look ridiculously tall, and his girth – clearly from years of great cooking and eating – added to the impression that he was not only a great man but a very large man. He bowed ever so slightly, his chef’s hat swaying toward us.

I drew a deep breath and did the only thing I could think to do: tip my head and smile in appreciation. Paul, who knew some French, managed to speak: “C’etait formidable,” meaning, “it was incredible.”

Bocuse smiled graciously and then proceeded to the next table.

That evening, coming face-to-face with a great chef and blindly enjoying each dish put in front of us, marked the beginning of my fascination and appreciation for French food.

Since then, I have made hundreds of French dishes, eaten more pork fat than is necessary or healthy, and enjoyed each meal and each sip of wine with my husband, Paul, who has instilled in me a love for all things French.

This dish, adapted from a Paul Bocuse recipe, is a playful celebration of my epiphany in France. It has become a favorite, in part because it reminds me of meeting the famous chef and in part because it’s so sexy and fun to make and eat.

Stuffed Squid with Tomatoes and Thyme

Serves 2

1 pound squid (about six)
5 ounces (3-4 slices) firm white bread, dried
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
2 thick slices of Bayonne ham (1 1/8-inch slice of prosciutto will also work)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
5 large tomatoes (canned tomatoes work well)
1 sprig thyme

Special equipment
Wooden toothpicks

If you purchased frozen squid, defrost the squid in container with cool water for a half hour.


Remove the heads from the squid, reserving the tentacles. Gently clean them under cool running water without piercing the skin. Pat dry.

Remove and discard the crust from the bread and place it in a small bowl with the wine to soak. Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Remove the leaves from the parsley and chop, discarding the stems. Finely chop the ham and the squid tentacles.


Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic and sauté briefly. Add the chopped ham and tentacles. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and let cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the bread from the wine and squeeze gently to remove excess liquid. Add the bread to the skillet breaking it up with the side of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Correct the seasoning, and add the cayenne.

Spoon this mixture generously into the squid (this is where it gets fun – and potentially sexy – especially if you start filling those tubes with your hands).

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Secure the ends crosswise with toothpicks (when the squid cooks, it shrinks and this prevents the stuffing from oozing out).


Peel the tomatoes and chop them coarsely. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, Dutch oven. When the oil is hot, add the stuffed squid and sauté, turning until lightly browned on all sides. You may need to do this in batches. I found that browning all the squid at once created too much juice for a proper browning. Once browned lightly, add the tomatoes and thyme.

Cover and let simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Serve with crusty French bread on the side.

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Reader Comments (24)

Ahhhh Angela...it's always a pleasure to visit your blog...I'm seduced each & every time! Stuffed squid are one of my favourites and this is great for mopping up with bread.

Also, I have a surprise for you at my blog. ;)

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPeter M

Wonderful pictures! I love calamari!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaryann

I'm just discovering Food Love...it's great! I love the story of the culinary union of you and your husband. Not to overlook, the very delicious stuffed squid recipe. You've got a new subscriber!

Thanks, Peter! I'm glad you like the stuffed squid recipe; it's so up your alley! Thanks too for featuring my blog on your site. What an honor! And I love the quince recipe too! You're the best!

Thanks, Maryann! I'm glad you like the photos!

Foodalogue: I'm thrilled to have a new subscriber! Thanks for visiting. Stay tuned for more 'food love'!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Angela - Lovely story. In France as you know the chefs our celbrities and Paul Bocuse is one of the biggies. What a thrilling and fun experience!

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbricogirl

Wonderful story, Angela! Sounds like you and Paul are a match made in eating-adventure heaven! I love the recipe, as well. I've always wanted to give fresh squid a try, but I've never really sought it out in the market. Now I will!

November 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Hey Angela! Thanks so much for your supportive comment, I so appreciated it. It was a relief to know so many out there struggle with the same things I've been struggling with. All the best!

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterhot garlic

Thanks, Bricogirl! I'm glad you liked the story. It was indeed a thrill to meet him -- and even better -- enjoy his amazing food!

Andrea: Thanks! We are quite the foodie match -- it's been fun learning from each other! Please do try squid -- and let me know what you think!

Natalie: Thanks for YOUR support. I look forward to reading how Hot of the Garlic Press -- and the woman behind it -- transforms. Best of luck!

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

These pictures are larger than life....so beautiful and tasty! I have one of Paul Bocuse's books sent to me by my cousin in France.

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNazarina A

Wow, you have such detailed photos! It makes a big difference to the recipe!

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterveggie belly

omg you are a very brave woman. that's so neat you made this yourself!

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

I make a very similar recipe, but with out the ham. I like your twist, I will try it next time. Thank you

November 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBuon viaggio.

Nazarina: Glad you like the pics! I haven't been disappointed yet with Paul Bocuse's recipes. I'm going to make another one of his recipes -- Basque chicken -- tonight!

Thanks, Veggie Belly! I like my photos to be instructive without necessarily being blow-by-blow. I'm glad you think they are useful!

Joanna: I'm not sure 'brave' is the word so much is 'patient,' but thank you! I

Buon Viaggio: Thanks! Glad you like the cured ham version. I can't wait to check out yours!

November 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

this almost seems like a spanish dish! i love meat with seafood. a long time back we did squid stuffed with morcilla (spanish black pudding/blood sausage). it sounds nasty to some, but just like yours is stuffed with ham, it just tastes GOOD with a meaty bit of calamari! these look bee-u-tee-ful!

November 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWe Are Never Full

We are Never Full: Good of you to guess Spanish! Actually, Bocuse catagorizes this dish as from the Bordeaux region, which is a little north of Basque country. I look forward to checking out your squid and blood sausage!

November 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

This looks absolutely wonderful. Growing up in Paris I have almost been nursed by the name Paul Bocuse as a baby, and you have truly done him justice!

November 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Shavings

I love stuffed squid. Over here we have the spicy malay version - love it.

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFAMILY FIRST

This looks delicious, it's going on the list.

I have to ask though - are those your hands? If so, they really don't match your face, which is, well, so unhairy......

x x x

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Devlin

Chocoloate Shavings: Thanks! I'm so envious that you grew up in Paris. What I would have given! I'm thrilled you think I did justice to Mr. Bocuse. I know some people have said that he's gone too commercial or lost his edge but after reading "The Perfectionist" I have such enormous respect for his longevity in such a high strung environment. I bow.

Family First: Ooh, I would LOVE to try a Malay version. Send me a link if you have one!

Naomi: LOL! Too funny. Those are the hands of my gracious sous chef, model, and husband, Paul. Glad you like the recipe. Let me know what you think if you try it!

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

i love squids...and cuttlefish. My mom likes to cook squids with soya sauce, chillies, lemongrass or stir-fried with lots of leeks. Another version from mom's hometown is stuffed squids with glutinous rice or cooked/grilled with fresh herbs like tumeric and other spices.

Your photos made my stomach growling :-D

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpixen

Pixen: Thanks! Your mom's version sounds amazing. I'm a huge fan of lemongrass. Send me a link if you get a chance!

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

The recipe is excellent, however I have to laugh at the Bocuse experience. It seems like Michelin starred chefs love the wives of culinarily obsessed men (like Paul, and me). My wife charmed Juan Marie Arzak and Christian Constant. She said to Arzak (in Spanish) "it moved me" meaning the food. He let her touch his stomach.

--Marc (chefectomy)

November 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Winitz

Hi Marc -- That is too funny! Your wife and I were lucky to marry such chef-obsessed husbands!

November 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

My parents and I particularly enjoy seafood and this recipe looks wonderful; it is something new that I haven't seen or thought of before. Next time I go home and he have squid, I will recommend we make this and so I don't forget, I'm bookmarking it!

January 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustine

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