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Fried Calamari (Squid)

Fried Calamari (Squid)

Through the years, I’ve gotten away from my childhood tradition of eating fried fish for Christmas eve, opting instead for dishes that are prepared in the oven or sauteéd on the stove top, like pasta with mixed shellfish, or swordfish involtini.  My kids threaten to mutiny if I omit those dishes, or the baccala mantecato or the stuffed squid (which my son now prepares) from the menu, but I have managed to wean everyone from the fried smelts, and all the other fried seafood, including squid. Aside from the difficulty of navigating several pans of sizzling, deep oil amid the chaos and confusion of choreographing seven to nine different dishes to be ready at the same time, frying fish just leaves a huge clean up job and a penetrating smell in the house that doesn’t go away for a couple of days.
But a couple of nights after Christmas eve, when I was home alone and rummaging through the refrigerator, I found a container with a few squid that hadn’t been used for our family dinner. I couldn’t resist the urge to fry up some squid “rings.”
And let me just say, due to unforseen circumstances – which involved another leftover – namely a third of a bottle of Prosecco – these were the best fried squid rings I’d ever made – or eaten. The batter had the perfect lightness and crunch without being greasy and the squid were tender too. I’ve made fried squid using a simple dusting of flour, and I’ve made it with a batter of flour, eggs and beer. My favorite way has been to use just flour and San Pellegrino water, but I figured since I had the Prosecco, why not use the bubbly to give the batter a little “lift.” With New Year’s eve just a day away, you’ll most likely have some Prosecco or Champagne in the house, so why not treat yourself to some fried calamari too?
Just mix some flour (I used about a cup) and pour in some Prosecco (start with 1/4 cup or so) until you get a consistency of a thin pudding. Add a little salt and a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper to give it some “zing.”
Slice the cleaned squid bodies into “rings.” They’re limp when you slice into them, but will take shape as soon as they hit the hot oil. Make sure the oil is good and hot. Test it first with a small piece before filling the whole pan with the squid.  Turn them over once, drain them on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt while they’re hot.
Serve them immediately with lemon slices (or some tomato sauce) and hopefully, you’ll have enough Prosecco leftover to pour a glass for yourself.
But don’t let my kids know I whipped up this batch of fried squid, or I’ll be back on fry duty again next Christmas eve.
Buon Anno Amici!
 May 2015 be filled with as much joy as you have given me,
dear, faithful readers. – Ciao Chow Linda



Batter for Fried Calamari (can be used for other fish, or frying vegetables too)
printable recipe here

1 cup flour (approximately)
1/4 cup Prosecco (approximately)
dash of salt
dash of cayenne pepper

Add all the ingredients together, using a whisk to blend. Add more Prosecco (or seltzer water if you don’t have enough Prosecco) until the batter is the consistency of a thin pudding.
Dip the sliced squid rings into the batter, lift with a fork to wipe off excess, then drop into hot oil. Turn once when golden on the first side and remove when golden on the second side. Drain on paper towels and season with salt immediately.

Calamarata

Calamarata

 

It’s fun to try new pasta shapes, especially when they mimic the main ingredients you’re pairing with the pasta. In this case, it’s calamarata, which closely resemble the calamari, or squid, that I cooked with them. In the past, it was nearly impossible to find calamarata here in the states, but nowadays, I have seen it not only in Philadelphia and New York, but even in my hometown of Princeton, N.J. The brand I used was “La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano,” an excellent artisanal pasta made with extrusion machines that employ the traditional bronze dies. In case you can’t find this brand, click here for a couple of other brands available online.
Try to find squid that are on the small size. They’re more tender. These were only about three inches long. Pat them dry and cut them into rings. Dry them again before cooking with them. They’ll release a lot of water anyway.
Saute the scallions and garlic in olive oil, then remove them when they’ve wilted.
You should be roasting the tomatoes too. Use a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet to make clean up a little easier. Roast them until they have burst open and have taken on a bit of color.
Toss the tomatoes together with the squid, the pasta and the remaining ingredients. All you have to do now is grab a fork and dig in.

Calamarata with calamari
printable recipe here

1 lb. calamarata pasta
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs. squid, cut into rings

1 pt. grape tomatoes
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic salt

6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped scallions
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 lemon, squeezed
red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/4 cup minced parsley
small handful of basil, minced

Place the grape tomatoes on a cookie sheet (I put parchment paper down first). Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 min. until they start to turn color.
Start the water boiling for the pasta, adding some salt. While you’re boiling the pasta, make the sauce by placing 1/2 cup olive oil in a large saucepan and adding the chopped scallions and minced garlic. Sauté until soft, then remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Turn up the heat, add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and add the squid rings, tossing and sautéing for only a few minutes. Do not overcook.  Squid will get tough if you leave it in for more than a few minutes. Remove the squid and set aside. Add the wine to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes in the pan with the liquid that the squid released. Drain the pasta and add that to the pan, also putting back in the sautéed scallions and garlic that you had set aside. Add the roasted tomatoes, juice from 1/2 lemon, salt, pepper and enough red pepper flakes to give it the spiciness you prefer. Sprinkle the minced parsley and basil on top and serve.