Fearless eaters are in vogue. A slew of reality television shows and food blogs, ranging from the Travel Channel's"No Reservations" toYouTube's Epic Meal Time, encourage diners to eat first, ask later (if at all) — whether the food at hand is snake hearts or tripe or a gingerbread house made with steak bricks and Cheez Whiz mortar. Who needs to know what goes in that food? Taste those flavors, taste them again, and don't forget to clean your plate. Never mind the haters.
But there are a few basic cues that give most diners, even the most fearless and ferocious, the willies. One of those cues is color. Nobody wants to really eat food that's black. And that might explain why I've eaten everything from oxtail to ostrich to octopus (all mind-blowing in their deliciousness), but had never tried squid in anything but calamari, much less cooked in its own ink.
Txipirones en su tinta is a traditional Basque dish, one that can be found at two places in the New Haven area. At Ibiza Tapas and Wine Bar in Hamden, this was served with bomba rice ($10), an especially absorbent rice typically used in paella. (The dish can also be found at Bistro Basque in Milford, Connecticut, where it's available as a larger-sized "tapas gastronomique." ) While we had ostensibly visited Ibiza for the purpose of researching specialty hams, it was the txipirones that we couldn't forget. Slightly nutty, slightly earthy, the squid were so tender they barely required a knife to cut. The ink contains taurine and amino acids, which is what I think people buy Red Bull for. The squid ink was about the consistency of vegetable juice, and for a minute I almost regretted wearing white jeans, but spilling would've been worth it. After all, fearless eating is the style.
Miya's Sushi in New Haven offers a black-eyed squid roll, inspired by squid-ink paella. Featuring ink-blackened rice and filled with crispy fried squid, it was a happy marriage of both low-end summertime calamari (the kind you eat out of those red and white cardboard boats) and the txipirones en su tinta I had enjoyed at Ibiza. This is one of Miya's best and not to be missed.
In Fairfield County, squid ink pasta can be found in Italian restaurants like Doppio (Greenwich) and at seafood restaurants like The Whelk (Westport), where it's served with chorizo, an excellent accompaniment to the squid ink's unique flavor, which verges into the realm of umami, that elusive fifth taste. Elsewhere, squid ink is used to impart flavor – and color! – in baguettes, ice creams, and much more.
Squid ink isn't something to be ignored or passed over, despite its off-putting color. In addition to being that crisp, jet blue-black, and also extremely delicious, squid ink has nutrients, guys. So now that you know what's in it, and where to get it, go fearlessly into the night. And eat first, ask questions later. Don't forget to clean your plate.
Bistro Basque: 13 River St., Milford, (203) 878-2092, bistrobasqueusa.com
Doppio: 41 East Elm St., Greenwich, (203) 340-9470, eatdoppio.com
Ibiza Tapas Wine Bar: 1832 Dixwell Ave., Hamden, (203) 909-6512, ibizatapaswinebar.com
Miya's Sushi: 68 Howe St., New Haven, (203) 777-9760, miyassushi.com
The Whelk: 575 Riverside Ave., Westport, (203) 557-0902, thewhelkwestport.com
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