Fried Calamari

(Nov. 15, 2019) Days of running barefoot and biking to Rehoboth must be put to rest until spring decides to make its presence again.

Miles of traffic has subsided to a state of normalcy. I must confess this makes me happy, waking up to find tourists fishing on my deck has a tendency to make one a little crazed.

Pretty soon the green grass will be taking a snooze; earth tone colors will be the theme for the next several months.

The lawn service came in for the final cutting of the year; I like them to cut the grass a little shorter for the winter. Darkness falls sooner and meeting for happy hour helps the winter blues.

Local restaurants run specials that are hard to beat. Half-priced burgers with the fixings are always a hit. Fish tacos are plentiful and down-right cheap. The thought of an iced cold beer and spicy wings are also very tempting.

If you are like me and fancy crispy calamari, one does not have to go out to enjoy this delight. Calamari are easy to prepare and will not break your budget.

The basic formula for frying calamari is to soak them in milk, toss them in a flour mixture, and fry the cephalopod for approximately two minutes. How simple is that?

Fresh calamari are delectable but it generally mean’s one has to clean them.

Simply slice the squid in half just below the eyes, separating the tentacles from the head; reserve the tentacles.

Holding the body, gently pull out the head, intestines, ink sack and clear skeleton; discard innards.

Working from the cut end of the body, grasp the thin skin. Peel it back and also discard it.

Rinse the squid and tentacles before cooking. Slice the body crosswise into rings and proceed according to your recipe.

Contrary to popular belief, frozen squid are also delicious. Walmart carries a 16-ounce bag, Great Value Rings & Tentacles Squid, fully cleaned and trimmed for $6.84. That is a great price and you should take advantage of it.

I find that equal amounts of flour, cornmeal, and panko make the perfect coating for calamari. The flour acts as a glue, the cornmeal adds flavor, and the panko adds texture.

If you are going to take on the task of preparing fried calamari, it needs to be cooked in very hot oil and very quickly. Otherwise, the protein will become tough and destroy its delicate nature.

When frying calamari, it is very important to cook them in small batches. If the pan is over-crowded, the temperature of the oil will drop, causing the calamari to absorb oil and become soggy.

The mini mesh wire basket shown in the picture is a fun way to present individualized orders of calamari. They are very inexpensive and can be purchased at Amazon.

Following is a fried calamari recipe with a choice of a creamy chipotle or a spiced marinara dipping sauce. Calamari can be served with a single sauce or both sauces to give your guests options.

The spiced tomato dipping sauce can be frozen, so the recipe is doubled. If you do not plan to make fried calamari in the near future, cut the recipe in half. Enjoy!

Chipotle Dipping Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons adobe sauce

2 chipotle peppers (in adobe sauce) minced

juice of ½ lemon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

few pinches of kosher salt

1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients until fully incorporated. Refrigerate chipotle dip until ready to use. Allow chipotle sauce to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Spicy Marinara Sauce

1 (28-oz. can) good quality crushed tomatoes

2 pinches of baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon heavy cream

1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Fried Calamari

1 lb. calamari that includes the rings and tentacles

1 ½ cups milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup unseasoned panko breadcrumbs

kosher salt to taste

canola oil for frying

fresh chopped cilantro or parsley as a garnish

1. Rinse calamari under cold running water. Place calamari in a medium bowl. Add milk and soak calamari for 30 minutes. Strain.

2. In a fryer or heavy pot, add about 2 inches of oil and heat to 375 degrees.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and panko. Toss the calamari in the flour mixture. Make sure the calamari are completely covered and shake off any excess.

4. Working in small batches, cook the calamari for about 2 minutes. Place cooked calamari on a cooling rack, and add salt.

5. Presentation. Place calamari on a serving dish, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve with chipotle dipping sauce, or spicy marinara sauce, or both.

Secret Ingredient – Choices. “Choices are the hinges of destiny.”

– Edwin Markham

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