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Cooking with Cuttlefish

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A common cuttlefish

A common cuttlefish

Georgette Douwma/Getty Images

Cuttlefish -- Not a Squid, Not an Octopus:

Cuttlefish is neither a fish nor is it very cuddly. It is a relative of the squid and octopus this is beloved in the Mediterranean and in Southeast Asia, although it is rarely seen in U.S. markets.

North American consumers can find this tasty cephalopod frozen in Asian markets, however. It is usually cleaned when frozen. If you should find fresh, or uncleaned cuttlefish, you will need to clean it like a squid: Cut just below the eyes to free the legs, cut out the little beak the cuttlefish eats with, remove the icky stuff within the head and take out the "cuttle bone," a hard center piece of cartilage that parrots love to chew on.

Cuttlefish, like squid, must be cooked in either one of two ways: In a ragingly hot pan for 2-3 minutes, or stewed for the better part of two hours.

The reason for this is because the muscles of cuttlefish, squid and octopus are very dense, with enormous amounts of connective tissue -- remember they have no bones and can move in all directions, meaning these critters need extremely fine motor control of those little arms.

Flash fry the legs and body (which is typically cut into rings) and you haven't let that connective tissue harden up. Stew it for hours and you've broken that connective tissue down.

Cuttlefish taste like a cross between octopus and squid: They are fuller flavored than calamari, but not nearly as rich as their rivals the octopi.

My advice for cuttlefish is to grill large ones over a very hot fire for a few minutes the way I do with baby octopus (there is a link to that recipe below), or use it in stir fries Asian-style. Failing that, stew the heck out of cuttlefish in any number of Greek, Italian or Spanish recipes.

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