How do you cook calamari / squid and avoid making it tough?
I am having a hard time with this seemly simple 'snack'.
The calamari and squid is usually given to me by my neighbor who is a seafood monger. It's frozen and a mix of baby octopus and squid rings, no label.
I've tried both boiling and frying them. I've also tried boiling followed by frying. The taste is always good, but the texture is not tender and kind of gummy.
It is possible that this type of squid is tougher (e.g. Moroccan octopus is more tender than Thai), and a reason why neighbor says: "arr, I can't cook these right... here... you try".
Is there a trick to getting them spot on?
Calamari or squid is of course famous for being difficult to cook, because it gets tough or rubbery.
As Harold McGee explains in On Food and Cooking, octopus and squid meat are very rich in collagen:
They are chewy when lightly cooked, tough when cooked to the denaturing temperatures of their collagen, around 120 - 130 F / 50 - 55 C, and become tender with long, slow cooking.
The trick then is to either:
Cook them minimally, so they do not begin to toughen. This Serious Eats recipe for fried calamari recommends no more than one minute.
My own interpretation of this is that it will keep the temperature of the squid below the 120 F threshold, at the risk of being below the pathogen kill point, so it should be done only with squid from a trustworthy purveyor.
Cook them for a long time, slowly, as in a braise, so they move through the tough phase to tender again. This Food Network recipe for stuffed squid by Ann Burrell is an example. The total squid cooking time is 20 to 25 minutes.
That's it, either real short or real long. Modernist cuisine and Mario Batali are pointing at less than 4 minutes or longer than 1 hr. +1 for using Harold. He'd be definitive source for the structure part.