Since the Jurassic period when they appeared, and despite being eaten everywhere, squid and cuttlefish have not only survived unchanged, but have also proliferated.
Despite intensive fishing, these species are not endangered: they are very prolific and are able to defend themselves from the marine predators thanks to the ink they squirt at enemies, and to the ease with which they change color, like the octopus, adopting that of their surroundings and becoming invisible.
Their various names reflect their particularities. Cooked squid is normally referred to as calamari, which comes from the Latin calamarium, which means “ink pot”. The Latin word for cuttlefish, sepia, is the name given to its ink and the pigment derived from it. The French term encornet is derived from the medieval word cônet.
Squid and cuttlefish should be shiny and pearly in appearance with a pleasant sea smell.
The smallest squid are the best.
Small squid are sold whole. The largest are sometimes available already cleaned.
Squid is sold frozen cut into rings or as a block of tentacles, with the larger squid cut into fillets.
The smaller cuttlefish are sold whole, sometimes without their bone.
The prepared body with the bone removed, sold in France as blanc de seiche, is ready to cook or stuff.
Cuttlefish comes frozen, whole or cut into rings, or chopped.
Cuttlefish ink is sold fresh in small packets or in small pots, frozen, in 250 ml jars, as a paste, or as a powder.
When it is small and whole, the head should be removed from the body and the beak removed. Then the body and tentacles are cleaned in iced water to protect their delicate nature. Once dry, it is cooked whole and always for a very short time, either pan-fried or in court-bouillon, otherwise it will become tough.
The bodies of the larger squid can be cooked whole, then stuffed, or cut into rings, crumbed, and fried. The heads are used to make fumet.
Cuttlefish can be diced for risotto, or cut into large pieces and cooked on a griddle. As with squid, it must be cooked quickly.
It is often eaten raw in Japan, either marinated or plain, in sushi.
Cuttlefish ink colors sauces, pasta, and rice. In Italy, where it is highly prized, it is even used with polenta. It is also widely used in Japan.
It is always preferable to use fresh or frozen ink and in the correct measure. It is never used straight, but diluted in water to prevent it from coagulating.
Squid and cuttlefish are delicate, particularly the smaller ones, and should be cooked on the day of purchase. They can be kept for a day or two in the refrigerator at 1–5ºC.
Squid and cuttlefish are high in protein and very low in fat. They contain minerals and B group vitamins, especially B12.