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Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Hope you have a nice stay!

Risotto Nero with Tarragon-Chili Calamari

Risotto Nero with Tarragon-Chili Calamari

This is probably the creepiest dish I've ever cooked. Tempered only by the familiar ebb and flow of risotto stirring, dying the rice pitch-black with squid ink and frying up the alien tentacles—which curl up as if coming back to life—are utterly scary tasks for a bachelor cook like me. Still, I love the idea of it: a young knight slaying his dragons in the kitchen. After all, it's only when you enter foreign territory that you learn new tastes, gain new experiences, and hone new recipes, adding to the repertoire of daily cooking. The term "bachelor" may have even come from the French bas chevalier, which literally translates to "low knight" (i.e., knight of a low order). This dish, then, I offer up as a symbol of culinary humility, sword at the ready. With confidence I did not make this. But that's okay—because being scared, in the kitchen and out, means you've still got something to fight for.

Risotto:
Olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 sachet squid ink^
2 cups seafood broth, heated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Calamari:
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/2 pound baby squid
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium braiser or any high-sided pan, sauté the shallot and garlic in a touch of olive oil until translucent. Stir in the rice, coating each grain until oil-slicked. Splash in the wine and reduce, stirring constantly; add the squid ink as well. Once the alcohol has evaporated, squid ink mixed in, lower the heat and slowly ladle in the stock (one or two ladlefuls at a time), stirring until fully absorbed by the rice between each addition. Keep stirring until the rice is perfectly al dente (to the tooth), about 18 minutes. When seasoned and cooked to your liking (I like mine with a slight bite in the middle), cover and proceed with the calamari.

In a small skillet on medium-high, heat up the olive oil and sauté (or "bloom") the dried tarragon and chili flakes for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the squid and fry for 2–3 short minutes. Season with salt and pepper and top the nightly risotto with the calamari and all its fragrant juices.

^For those who have yet to try it, squid ink is actually quite mild in flavor: a breath of briny sea. You can get sachets of it from your local fishmonger or at specialty food stores (especially Italian).

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