Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Squid in its Own Ink (Txipirones en su tinta)

This dish is a gift from the Gods! Txipirones, chipirones, jibiones, calamares - whatever they are called is ok! I am going to say “txipirones en su tinta,” or squid in its own ink. This dish, along with bacalo al pil-pil and bacalao a la vizcaina, among others, are probably the greatest contributions to the culinary world from the Basque Country. They don’t come from the kitchen of a fancy chef but rather from the wives and fishermen of the Basque country. It is exotic, sophisticated and, yes, delicate. There are many other dishes but this one is really special.

It is laborious if you have to clean the squid but it is worth every second you spend on it. Today you can buy the squid already cleaned but if you cannot I will explain the cleaning procedure to you. The squid is covered by a membrane. It has wings, stomach, tentacles, eyes, beak and ink. I don’t use this ink because I buy the ink in small plastic bags. The ink is used by the squid to camouflage and escape from other predators.

From left to right: The squid as it is caught. Secondly, the squid's body when it is cleaned and turned outside in and ready to be stuffed. In the top right, the parts to discard (eyes, ink and digestive system).  Lastly, the clean tentacles to be stuffed in the squid body. Don't forget to remove the beak in the center of the tentacles.

First, pull out the tentacles and stomach and remove the membrane (it is like skin) from the outside of the squid until they are all white.  Inside you will find what is like a plastic. This is the equivalent of the human spine. Remove it, turn the squid outside in, and remove and discard everything else. Clean the squid under running water. Then clean the tentacles, keeping them, but discard the beak in the center of the tentacles. Then stuff the squid with the clean tentacles.

Squid cleaned and stuffed


2 pounds cleaned squid with tentacles
2 red onions finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/4 green pepper
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 packages squid ink (It is sold in all Spanish stores)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a pan put 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and green pepper and cook slowly on low heat. When the onion turns translucent add the bread crumbs and brandy and raise the heat to let the alcohol burn. Add the tomato sauce and the ink previously dissolved with flour and warm water to the mix. Then add about 2 cups water, season with salt and let the sauce simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Place this mix in a blender and blend until you have a smooth and velvety sauce.

In another pan put about a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the squid on low heat until tender or pink. If they pass the point of tenderness and you find they are tough, you can rectify this by cooking them longer with the sauce.

Add the squid with a spoon of the liquid to the sauce and cook them until tender (to the point when you can cut them with a fork). If the sauce gets too thick, add water and stir it. Serve with bread and a lot of sauce.

Pintxo de txipiron


  1. I think this dish is a piece of art.


  2. Thank you! I hope you can make it. It is one of our Basque staples.