By Christie Vanover | Published December 2, 2013 | Last Updated May 12, 2022
Before I roll into Christmas recipes, I have to share something bizarre about my Thanksgiving. I’m overly sentimental about holidays and a total girl of tradition, but this year, I jumped way outside the box. In addition to cooking a turkey, I cleaned and prepared fresh squid.
Squid for Turkey Day? Yep. I hosted a Filipino-American BBQ for 39 people. My father-in-law and I prepared a mix of traditional American food (turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, etc.), and I added some Filipino dishes to the buffet, including adobo, lumpia, crispy pata, pinakbet, whole catfish, whole tilapia and squid.
I purchased the seafood at Seafood City in Las Vegas. It’s a really fun place to shop. The butcher section is nose to tail, literally. When I was looking for pork shanks (legs), I came across pig noses and tails.
The seafood section reminds me of a scaled down version of the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or the fish markets in Japan. Fresh, whole fish line ice-filled bins. Shoppers simply select their fish, carry it to the fishmonger and request how they would like it cleaned.
I chose two whole catfish and three tilapia and requested that they be gutted and scaled. A few minutes later, they were ready.
While I was waiting, I told the gentleman that I needed some squid steaks. He pointed me toward the fresh, whole squid. They were huge! I bagged up three and asked him to clean them.
“We don’t clean squid,” he responded. Stunned with my bagful of squid, I was too embarrassed to put them back on ice, so I turned and placed them in the cart.
Once I was done shopping, I sat in the parking lot and Googled “cleaning squid,” just to be sure I could pull this off. It looked doable.
So, Thanksgiving eve, I shocked my parents and grandma and dumped the squid onto the counter for preparation. What happened next, may just be my best Thanksgiving memory ever.
Going from memory of my previous Google search, I began to twist the head from the body. Immediately, the eyeball popped and squirted squid ink all over my shirt. I obviously wasn’t doing something right.
Grandma came in to save the day. She pulled out her iPad and began searching YouTube (she’s pretty hip like that). I changed clothes into an old painting shirt (vintage 1990 cheer squad), and we gathered around her iPad.
The key was separating the piece of cartilage inside the body before trying to remove the head. You need to slide your hand in palm side up and work your fingers along the top inner portion. Then, with a twist, you can pull out the innards. Of course, I had to buy extra large squid that had eaten quite well before being caught. Their bellies were very full. (That’s what’s in the middle bowl).
The next step was pulling out the thin glass-like cartilage. Then, I removed the tentacles from the head, pulled out the beak and skinned the body. That part was a breeze compared to step 1.
Dad was fascinated by the fin. It resembled a small stingray.
To prep the squid, I cleaned it, rubbed it with olive oil and salt and pepper and smoked it.
The whole fish were also smoked. I stuffed them with onion, lemons and peppers and seasoned them with a myriad of spices.
Unfortunately, with all the food I was preparing, I forgot about the smoker and over-smoked the squid. I was totally bummed. It was edible, but we could no longer appreciate the freshness of the meat.
So I guess that means that next year, in addition to the traditional turkey, we’ll have to continue the new squid tradition so we can try again.
My dad shot video of me trying to figure this out with my grandma’s YouTube play-by-play. It’s pretty humorous.
I never had any problem cleaning up the squids for holidays – I made sure my husband told his division to shower before they came over! 😉