The ideal setting
Called "supion" in Provence, the "chipiron", a sort of baby squid, is a local speciality that gets its name from the Basque country where it's a local institution. You'll find them everywhere: on the market stalls, on the ports, in fishmongers and supermarkets, but also in all the best restaurants who cook them "à la plancha", fried with garlic and parsley, ink-stuffed or "à la luzienne", a spicy recipe from the Saint-Jean de Luz region.
Let's head to the Biarritz seafront and another local institution, the Café de la Grande plage, a chic traditional brasserie of the Casino Barrière since the roaring twenties. Here the absolute must-try dish is the pan-fried "chipirons" with Serrano ham and Piquillo peppers, scattered with garlic.
The Normandy chef Franck Brière recalls that it's been on the menu non-stop since he arrived in 2005: “The recipe was invented by chef Rémy Gouello, and it hasn't changed one iota since. It's the most frequently ordered dish and a staple on the menu all year round".
From the sea to your plate
The chef gets his supplies at the fish auction in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and every morning his team take it in turn to clean the baby squid, a fiddly and crucial step.
The Café de la Grande plage gets through four tonnes of baby squid every year just. This dish is prepared simply, and very fast, à la plancha, for no longer than two minutes to ensure it doesn't become rubbery, before being served with garlic, parsley, peppers and Serrano ham from the market in Saint-Sébastien to add a salty touch, "for years my supplier has been the charcuterie Iker", says Franck Brière, who keeps the secret of his "finishing touch" to himself.
In the plate, the chipirons have colour and volume. “Why is this dish so popular? Because it's so emblematic of the region, adds the chef and also because it's an easy, light and tasty meal. Baby-squid are low calorie, easy to digest and rich in proteins". They also provide vitamin B12.
In summer, the Café de la Grande plage launches its apero tapas evenings on the terrace overlooking the ocean waves. Naturally, the garlic and parsley-sautéed chipirons are on the menu, served in small ramekins, in a relaxed way, along with a plate of Iberian ham and a glass of Irouléguy, Txakoli or Navarre wine.