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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.

Risotto With Squash, Chestnuts And Prosecco

Risotto with Squash, Chestnuts and Prosecco

 Have you got any half-full bottles of prosecco or champagne left over from New Year’s festivities? OK, don’t scoff — there are some of us who don’t quaff down a whole bottle in one sitting. In addition to the leftover prosecco, there were a dozen chestnuts and a small hunk of butternut squash in the fridge still uncooked and in search of a recipe. Hence the amalgam of these ingredients and birth of this risotto dish.

You can also use already-peeled chestnuts from France that come in a glass jar, but since I had these fresh ones, I cut them in half and plunked them into a pot of boiling water – not long enough to cook them through, but long enough to loosen the shell and pry out the interior. Click here for a more thorough explanation of how to do it.
I thought I’d finally inaugurate this heavy copper pot with the risotto – a pot I bought in the town of Guardiagrele, Italy last summer, but still hadn’t used.  It reminded to me that I’ve got a lot of kitchen tools that sit around unused because they’re in cabinets where I don’t often see them. So I’m taking it upon myself to pull out some of these pots, pans, and other gadgets more frequently in my attempt to “use it or lose it.”
After cooking the risotto in this copper pot, I may never make risotto again in any other vessel. The heavy-gauge pan ensures really even cooking without any hot spots. And it’s beautiful to look at as well.
Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients at the ready before starting to cook. Missing, but vital, to the dish, is the prosecco (use dry white wine if you haven’t got prosecco), as well as butter and extra virgin olive oil. Dice the squash into small pieces because the squash needs to be small enough to cook while you’re stirring it into the risotto. That should take only about 20 minutes. Make sure you make a little extra risotto, because my next post is a truly irresistible treat using leftover risotto.
First thing you do is soften the shallots in a mixture of butter and olive oil, then stir the grains of risotto about for a bit — a process called “tostatura.” You don’t want the grains to turn brown, so just quickly heat the exterior for three or four minutes or until the grains are opaque. This will allow the rice to soak up the liquids without becoming soggy. By the way, make sure to use carnaroli, vialone nano or arborio rice, short grain varieties that release a lot of starch, adding a creaminess to the dish.
Then it’s time for the prosecco (or dry white wine). Don’t forget the cook needs a sample!
Add the vegetables and chestnuts, and a bit of chicken broth, a ladle full at a time. When the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes or so), it’s time for the “mantecatura.”  Take it off the heat, add some dollops of cold butter …
and the parmesan cheese. Dig in.

Risotto with squash, chestnuts and prosecco


printable recipe here


1 cup rice – arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano
1 large shallot
2 T. butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup butternut squash, diced in small pieces
1/2 cup chestnuts, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine or prosecco
2 cups (or more) hot chicken broth
a couple more tablespoons butter and parmesan cheese to taste (1/4 cup) for the mantecatura

Place the olive oil and butter in a saucepan and add the rice. Toss the rice for a few minutes to coat, but don’t let the grains brown. Pour in the prosecco and stir, then add the squash and chestnuts and a ladleful of the broth. Continue stirring and continue adding broth, one ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked and tender to the bite. Season with salt and white pepper. Remove from the heat and add the cold butter and parmesan cheese.