Another great one from our Providence kitchen!
I am an Italian American, and yes, I love the sight of fake marble columns and dimly lit red sauce joints with wax covered Chianti bottles. I have come to love these things, because they mean one of my favorite comfort foods, fried calamari with marinara dipping sauce.
I make it at home frequently, so I thought I’d share my favorite recipe for calamari fritti. The key for me, is to coat the calamari in seasoned cornmeal, and very lightly shallow fry it in some olive oil. This makes for a more delicate calamari with a nutty crunch, and I find it much more enjoyable than the greasy rubbery deep fried fare found in too many restaurants. I also like to serve it tossed in a simple sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, and reduced balsamic vinegar, garnished with a few banana pepper rings. This provides a perfect piquant bite to complement the savor squid.
Oh, and try the tentacles! The tentacles are my favorite part. This means that you have to get your squid fresh from the monger, but don’t forget to ask for some tentacles, they have more flavor and great texture.
¾-1 lb Squid, tentacles and Body
1 cup Fine Ground Cornmeal
To taste Red Pepper Flakes (I Use about a ½ teaspoon per cup of cornmeal)
To taste Salt
For Frying Olive Oil ( You want to see about ¼ inch deep in the pan)
For the Sauce:
4 each Roma Tomatoes, chopped
6 cloves Garlic, minced
¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Sweet Banana Pepper Rings
¼ cup Fresh Basil, torn
To Prepare the Sauce:
Sautee the tomatoes in some olive oil for about a minute, then add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add in the vinegar and let the mixture simmer until it has a slightly syrupy consistency. Toss in the banna peppers, and half of the basil. Set aside
For the Calamari:
Coat a skillet with about ¼ inch of olive oil, and place on high heat. Combine the cornmeal, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Dredge the squid in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off the excess cornmeal, and place into the hot oil (about 5-6 rings at a time or 4-5 tentacles at a time). Cook for about 1 minute and then flip each piece. Do not over cook the calamari, they don’t like it! Place the cooked calamari on top of a cut up brown paper bag or paper towel to drain the excess oil.
Put it all together:
When finished frying the calamari, place some on a plate, and toss with a little sauce. Garnish with fresh basil, and eat!
I like to serve this with some arugula or if I want a more filling meal, some fresh pasta, such as linguine. The calamari sauce also doubles nicely as a pasta sauce with some fresh grated Parmesan (Real Parmesan) cheese on top.
And no, just in case you were concerned, I don’t spike my hair and go spray tanning.