Let’s just get the elephant out of the room, shall we? A majority of people have eaten calamari at least once in their lives, and they either had a good experience or a bad one. I mean, there’s good calamari and then there’s fried rubber bands. Another problem people typically have with calamari is that it’s absent of flavor. While having a mild flavor, it does have flavor. I equate it to a mild sea salty or briny flavor. If you think about it, chicken really doesn’t have much flavor either, the flavor is in the seasoning and overall preparation. Cook a chicken too long and you’d think you’re eating a rubber chicken.
So the big question folks have who haven’t eaten calamari or fried squid is: why the heck would you eat squid? I think it probably started out of resourcefulness because it was cheap. Since I was a kid it became more of a novelty, and now it has evolved into creativity. If done right, squid it can be made into a multitude of dishes like ceviche, incorporated into pasta sauces, grilled and much more.
Calamari Fritti, or Fried Calamari has to be prepared fresh and fried very quickly to keep it from becoming the chewy rubber band thing we talked about earlier. So, when it’s not being used as bait, my favorite way to eat squid is fried calamari. Enjoy!
- 1 lb cleaned medium squid (4"-5″), with tentacles, rinsed clean with cold water
- Fry Mix:
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- About 6 cups peanut, canola, or other vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers in vinegar, drained well
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Working Ahead:
- Take 1 cup of pepperoncini peppers and drain them well.
- Place onto several layers of paper towels and pat dry.
- If necessary, cut squid bodies into ½″ rings and place in a large bowl with whole tentacles and prepared pepperoncini peppers.
- Pour buttermilk over squid mixture and toss lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 6 hours).
- Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, black and cayenne pepper in a large bowl and whisk well.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Heat 3" of oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat (or in a deep fryer) until it registers 4000° on a deep-fry thermometer.
- Uncover and stir squid with a slotted spoon, then lift about half of squid pieces from buttermilk, allowing excess buttermilk to drip back into bowl.
- Drop coated pieces into the dry mix.
- With a separate, dry slotted spoon, toss squid pieces to coat evenly with the fry mix, lift them out, gently shake off excess coating, and transfer to a plate.
- Bread remaining squid.
- Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add butter.
- Once butter melts, add garlic, lemon zest and sauté for about 1 minutes, do not brown garlic. Immediately add lemon juice and reduce heat to medium-low. Keep warm while frying squid mixture.
- When the oil is hot, carefully drop half the squid pieces into oil. If any of the pieces stick to the bottom of the pot, loosen with tongs. Turn squid occasionally to cook evenly; it will only take about 1½ minutes until they are crisp and golden.
- Fry remaining squid and drain.
- Place calamari in a serving bowl and drizzle with warm butter mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.