WHERE: Public piers throughout Puget Sound, but the Edmonds Pier, north of Seattle in best now through November. (During winter months, try public piers in Seattle and south to Tacoma.)
WHY: Mythically large squid sometimes ply the waters of the Puget Sound, but there is no commercial fishery here, leaving DIY as the only option for eating local cephalopods. Plus, the bar of entry is low: with only a cheap fishing rod, some line, lures called jigs, and a bucket, you're allowed to snag up to 10 pounds of Loligo Opalescens, or Market Squid, per night. Seattleites, especially Japanese, Filipino, and Vietnamese immigrants, were foraging these small (8 to 10 inch) squid for decades before "local food" was a thing.
HOW: Since it's fall in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll want a warm beverage in a thermos, a raincoat, and rain pants. With any luck, you’ll be covered in squid ink, which will easily wash off rain gear. You’ll need a shellfish license ($11.35 for a day or $16 for an annual pass, minus Dungeness crab), which you can buy with the jigs (starting at $5; you add up to four on a line) and other gear at Linc's Bait Shop in Seattle (501 Rainier Ave. S.; 206-324-7600). Sink the jigs and keep them moving until you feel the tug of a squid grabbing that bait. Once out of the water, the squid should loosen its grip. Remove it from the hook and store it in a bucket. To prepare, cut the squid at the mantle and remove its head, organs, and outer film. You'll eat the body and the arms.
GET THERE: From Seattle, head north to the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and spend the day or weekend exploring the Olympic Peninsula–hike the restored landscape around the newly free-flowing Elwha River–or jump on a second ferry in Port Townsend and explore the San Juan Islands by boat and bike. Save squidding to punctuate the return journey. The public fishing pier in Edmonds is just south of the ferry terminal, off Admiral Way.
HOURS: Plan to be out under the cover of night. The best window is two to three hours before high tide. The squid are attracted to light, so choose the best-lit areas and scan the water for passing schools. Squid ink on the deck indicates a prime spot.
DO IT RIGHT: Seattle chef Kevin Davis, whose eateries Blueacre and Steelhead Diner are bright lights in the local and sustainable seafood scene, whipped up this BLASTED SQUID dish just for us. This makes one large entree that, when served with steamed white rice, will serve two.
6 ounces fresh squid, cleaned and separated
3 ounces clarified butter (ghee)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon shallot, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup shitake mushroom caps, stem remove, julienned
1/2 cup black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup leeks, julienned
1/2 cup carrots, julienned
1/4 cup onion, julienned
1/4 ounce cilantro, picked
4 ounces Thai basil leaf, picked
4 ounces chicken stock, chilled
2 ounces soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon scallion tops, extreme bias
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Heat 1 oz oil to smoking, season squid with black pepper. Sauté squid briefly. Remove from pan. Says chef Davis: "This is where the blast comes in. Get the oil really hot, remove pan from heat, tilt the pan forward and add the squid to the dry side of the pan, level the pan and spread out the squid and sauté with the residual heat just until the tentacles curl, approx 30 seconds."
Add remaining oil followed by mushrooms leeks, carrots, onion, garlic, ginger, shallot and serrano pepper, sauté until tender
Mix cornstarch, chicken stock, soy sauce, lime juice with a whisk to form slurry
Add to pan and bring to boil stirring constantly until mixture is thickened slightly
Return squid to pan and reheat briefly
Plate in a warm bowl and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds
Enjoy with a fine Seattle microbrew, say the PNW Pale Ale from Seapine Brewing Company.