If there’s calamari on the menu, The Goddess will be ordering some. Calamari, when well prepared, is a feast to behold. Crispy on the outside, a slight sweetness and meltingly tender on the inside. Delicious. Just to be clear, calamari and squid are the same thing. Yup. It’s true. People are funny about eating things they deem squishy and eely. But, those same people who wouldn’t touch squid, will positively gobble down calamari. A rose by any other name….
According to Merriam-Webster—
“The word calamari was borrowed into English from 17th-century Italian, where it functioned as the plural of “calamaro” or “calamaio.” The Italian word, in turn, comes from the Medieval Latin noun calamarium, meaning “ink pot or “pen case,” and can be ultimately traced back to Latin calamus, meaning “reed pen.” The transition from pens and ink to squid is not surprising, given the inky substance that a squid ejects and the long tapered shape of the squid’s body. English speakers have also adopted “calamus” itself as a word referring to both a reed pen and to a number of plants.”
I have to be honest. I didn’t clean these squid. I bought the calamari already cleaned and cut into rings. I do prefer to purchase whole squid and clean them, as my favorite part of the squid, is the head with its tentacles, sans beak…they get super crispy. And crispy is sooooo good.
As you may have noticed, I don’t use wheat flour for breading anymore. When it comes to crispiness, wheat flour just doesn’t cut it. Rice flour and cornstarch are the perfect coating, if you want crunch. I had about 1/2 cup of “The Dredge” in the freezer, so I added the cornstarch and rice flour to that, along with the seasonings. It worked perfectly.
Put the calamari rings into a bowl with the lemon juice and club soda. Stir it around and let them set for about a half hour. This helps tenderize the calamari and gives us nice moisture for “The Dredge” to adhere to. Add the rings to “The Dredge”, shake in the bag and place the rings on a waxed paper-lined dish. Let the rings set for at least 15 minutes. Or wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge. Before you fry the rings, give them another good shake in “The Dredge”. I’ve tried frying the calamari both ways, single dipped (on the right) and double dipped (on the left). Double dipped worked better; they hold up better when dipping. When you’re ready to serve the calamari, heat the oil in a deep, heavy pan. You’ll want at least 2 inches of oil. Make certain to not over-fill the pan with oil, about 1/3 of the depth. When the oil reaches 375°F, add a small handful of the dredged rings and fry for about 1-1 1/2 minutes. Over-cooking the calamari creates a rubber band-like texture that’s just flat-out nasty. Not good. Nope. We don’t want that. But, cook them properly, and you have heaven on a fork! That’s really all there is to it.
You want a nice dipping sauce. Many times you’ll find calamari served with marinara sauce, particularly in Italian restaurants. It’s not my preference. I prefer a sweeter sauce or a mayonnaise-based sauce. But, you should choose whatever sauce you enjoy.
Calamari Frita (Fried Calamari)
- 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
- 1/4 cup club soda
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cup rice flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (on the coarse side)
- 1 teaspoon onion granules
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Thai-Pineapple Chile Sauce
- Lime-Garlic Aïoli
Combine the calamari with the club soda and lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes (this tenderizes the calamari). In a zippered plastic bag, combine the rice flour and cornstarch. Add the salt, black pepper, onion and garlic granules, and cayenne; shake the mixture until completely combined.
Add the calamari rings, a handful at a time, to the breading mixture. Shake to cover completely. Place the breaded rings on a parchment-lined cookies sheet. Repeat the process until all the calamari rings are breaded. Let stand at least 15 minutes before frying.
Heat about 3 inches of oil, in a heavy pan, until the oil reaches 375°F. Fry for 1 minute, until the rings brown nicely. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.
NOTE: I had some of “The Dredge” in the freezer. I just added the rice flour, cornstarch and spices to the mixture and proceeded with the recipe.
Calamari Frita (Fried Calamari) Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2018. All rights reserved.
Notice that I tossed some ripe jalapeño chile rings into “The Dredge” and fried those up. There was some serious heat here. For the dipping sauces, you have sweet and sour of the Thai-Pineapple Chile Sauce versus the creamy and citrus-y flavor punch of the Lime-Garlic Aïoli. It’s a deliciously friendly competition.