Squid in Guajillo Sauce

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Adapted from My Mexico by Diana Kennedy

Between roasting the tomatoes and making a pulp of the guajillo flesh, this is a bit of work, but it is very tasty. The chiles and cloves combine to give the sauce a very interesting flavor. The original recipe called for octopus with squid as an alternate; we took the option.

There is some ambiguity in the original recipe and I can't quite remember how I resolved it. The original recipe asks you to saute onions and garlic in the oil with a sprinkle of salt, first for 5 minutes over high heat, and then for 10 minutes, covered, over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until "tender". Later, you are supposed to add the squid to the tomato-based sauce. But it does not tell you when you supposed to combine the squid with the onions and garlic! (You clearly are; they are listed together in the ingredients and separate from the "sauce".)

I have read elsewhere that you have two windows with squid, octopus, and the like. If you cook it briefly enough it will not be tough; however, if you keep cooking it quickly becomes tough but will soften again if simmered long enough. Consistent with that, Diana Kennedy tells you that if, when you get to the end, it is too chewy, you should add a cup of water, cover, and simmer very gently for up to an hour.

Attempting to err on the side of undercooking the squid, I believe I simply added the onions and garlic and uncooked squid to the tomato sauce together--it has plenty of time to cook in the tomato sauce, and anyway we made it an hour or two in advance and reheated it, which it does quite well. (So probably by the time we were done I had overcooked it anyway.) However, in rereading the original recipe, I believe it is likely that the 10 minutes of covered cooking of the onions and garlic "until tender" was meant to include the squid. The final decision is left as an exercise for the reader.


  • 2lb squid, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced


  • 4 oz guajillo chiles
  • 1 lb tomatoes
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil


Place the tomatoes on a foiled baking sheet and broil 2 inches from the heat, turning frequently, until blistered and brown all over.

Stem and seed the guajillos and remove any large veins. Open flat and toast in a warm skillet on each side. (Diana Kennedy says to toast them only briefly so as to avoid burning them and adding a bitter flavor to the sauce, but it took me quite awhile to get them to do anything. Perhaps I had the heat on too low.) Place in a bowl with hot water to cover and steep for at least 15 minutes.

Fry onions and garlic with a sprinkle of salt in oil over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. (Not in the original recipe, but possibly add the squid.) Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes more, shaking occasionally, "until tender".

Process two of the tomatoes with the dried spices in a food processor until smooth, then gradually add the remaining tomatoes, with as much juice as you can get off the pan. Remove and set aside, and rinse out the food processor.

Put just a bit of the guajillo water in the food processor along with a couple of the chiles. Process, adding chiles one at a time and a bit more water as needed, to make a fairly smooth sauce. Press the mixture through a fine strainer to extract as much liquid and pulp as possible. Discard the skins.

Heat the other oil over high heat in another large skillet or flameproof casserole. Add the tomatoes and reduce about 5 minutes. Add the guajillo pulp and reduce for about 5 minutes more. Add salt to taste.

Add the squid (and onions and garlic, if not together already) to the pan and cook over fairly high heat for about 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. The sauce should be pretty thick and should stick to the squid. If the squid is too tough, add some water, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently for up to an hour.

Serve with warmed corn tortillas.