Itching for something to shoot, my photographer-boyfriend convinced me to enter the contest. I cooked and he took the photos. I think we make a pretty good team - and he still loves me with pitch-black teeth.
If you can't find squid ink, it's certainly no crime to use dried squid ink pasta instead. But do try to get your hands on some real ink; it's every bit as alluring as you'd imagine. I bought a small tub from my local fishmonger for $9.99. I only use a tablespoon of the black stuff in this recipe. It was, to my taste, just enough. And all the better: I have some left over for other endeavors. —Rochelle Bilow
zest of 1 orange, cut into 1/2" strips
whole black peppercorns
Pasta with Squid Ink
medium-sized white onion, chopped finely
cloves garlic, chopped finely
Pernod, or other anise-flavored spirit
chicken stock, reserved from fennel
squid or cuttlefish ink
zest of 1/2 orange, grated finely
fresh parsley, chopped roughtly
splash olive oil
squid tentacles, cleaned
easily melting blue cheese (I used St. Agur)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the fennel in half, then remove the core. Slice the remaining part into 1/4" thick pieces. It will fall apart a bit, and that's okay. Place the fennel in a deep baking dish or hotel pan.
Bruise the orange zest with the back of a knife, and add it to a hotel pan/baking dish, along with the black peppercorns and chicken stock. We're looking for the stock to come about 3/4 of the way up the fennel. If you have a very large pan, you might need more stock; if your pan is small, you might need less.
Cover loosely with foil and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, turning the fennel over halfway through. They are done when, pierced with a knife, they release the blade without any give.
Remove the fennel and keep covered with foil. Strain the orange and pepper out of the stock, discarding the pieces. Reserve the stock.
Pasta with Squid Ink
In a deep, wide pan, gently cook the onions and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat until soft and fragrant. Add the Pernod and stir until almost evaporated. Add the chicken stock and let reduce to 1/3-1/4 cup. If the liquid is reduced sufficiently and you're not ready to finish it, lower the heat and keep it warm.
Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water. Cook the pasta to your preference - I prefer almost al dente, as I find it cooks a bit more once tossed with the sauce. Drain the pasta and toss with a splash of olive oil, to keep it from sticking.
Season the squid tentacles with salt and pepper, then saute them in the neutral oil in a saute pan over high heat. Cook them just until they become pert and purple, then remove from the pan, cover and set aside.
Finish the sauce: add the squid ink and blue cheese (either crumbled or pulled apart, depending on consistency), and stir to combine. Add the pasta, fennel, parsley and orange zest, reserving a bit of parsley and zest to finish each plate. Stir to combine well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped off with a few extra-curly squid.