All I know is I went to the fishmonger, who had some beautiful small squid, and suddenly an urge came over me: I had to take them home and give them a Mexican twist.
It was a little funny to head in a south-of-the-border culinary direction, because, for some reason, I didn’t usually associate squid with Mexican cooking. I’ve been to Mexico dozen of times and eaten plenty of fish and shellfish. But somehow any memory of having squid there evades me, which seems odd, especially since squid, or calamares, are indeed quite popular in Mexico. Was I daft?
I got in touch with Gilbert Pilgram, the chef and owner of Zuni Café in San Francisco, a Mediterranean restaurant. Mr. Pilgram, who was raised in Mexico City, is an expert in Mexican cuisine.
“Certainly we eat calamares; they are all over Mexico,” he said. “Stuffed, fried, you name it. There’s our traditional tomatoey squid cocktel — sometimes shrimp and oysters are added, too — served in a tall glass with saltines.” But what’s your favorite squid dish? I asked.
Sautéed calamares al ajillo, with chiles de árbol, garlic and lime, he said.
Then I contacted the chef Gabriela Cámara, whose restaurant Contramar is arguably among Mexico City’s best. It is packed for lunch all week long, and she now has Cala in San Francisco, serving, among other things, an assortment of the most delicious tostadas topped with seafood. About calamares, Ms. Cámara said: “I cook them so many ways!…