“I’m going to break one of the rules of the trade here. I’m going to tell you some of the secrets of improvisation. Just remember—it’s always a good idea to follow the directions exactly the first time you try a recipe. But from then on, you’re on your own.” – James Beard
If you read my last post (and I certainly hope that all of you did), you know how impressed I was with our cooking lessons with Barbara Schuerenberg. Her teaching style and recipes were so typically Provençal and so delicious. In a moment of daring, I asked her if she would mind sending me a new recipe to share with everyone. Of course, she graciously agreed to do just that and in a few weeks, I received a wonderful recipe for Seiches à la Niçoise which I will share with you today.
I promptly gave it a try and the results were delicious. The images below show my efforts while the image above was taken by Barbara.
A note of explanation and caution: The recipe called for mini calamari which I could not find anywhere in Sonoma County. Instead, I used “tubes and legs” which were available and worked out fine. You must, however, use the freshest product available. The tubes, unless absolutely fresh, can get a little mushy if cooked too long. Also, I used canned San Marzano tomatoes because I made the dish in the winter. In the summer when good fresh tomatoes are available, I will use fresh.
From Barbara Schuerenberg:
Every year in February we try and go to “Les Oursinades” in Carry le Rouet. Carry is a small town close to Marseille and their sea urchin festival is simply wonderful. It takes place on the three first weekends in February, when the local fishermen put up stalls where all kinds of seafood, wine, charcuterie and cooked food is being sold which you then take to long tables that are set up all along the harbor of Carry le Rouet. You share your table and often also your food and wine with whoever happens to sit next to you.
It was at the Oursinades a few years ago that I first tasted these “Seiches à la Niçoise” and loved them. Their sauce is simply addictive and you, of course, mop it up with a good, crusty baguette. So I asked a few questions and googled a bit and so managed to recreate the recipe I tasted there. It has become a firm favorite. Bon appétit!
Seiches à la Niçoise
- 500 g (about 1 lb. 2 oz.) seiches (mini calamari)
- 4 or 5 shallots, peeled and medium chopped
- 150 g (about 5-6 oz.) lardons (crumbled bacon)
- 500 g (about 1 lb. 2 oz.) peeled, deseeded and chopped tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes
- a glug of olive oil
- smoked paprika powder, pepper fresh from the mill, a few chili flakes
- a generous sprinkling of chopped thyme leaves
- a handful of chopped parsley
- Carefully fry the chopped shallots and the lardons (crumbled bacon) in a bit of olive oil over medium heat, add the mini calamari and fry a bit more.
- Add the peeled tomatoes, the thyme, paprika and chili flakes and let cook (no lid) over a moderate heat until the sauce thickens (about 40 minutes).
- Adjust the seasoning and serve with a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Add some good, honest bread, a bottle of decent wine, and enjoy!