While most people may turn their nose up at the thought of eating squid, if you dip it in batter and fry it- a common restaurant specialty known as calamari- it suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. While there are different recipes and methods to prepare calamari, the basic steps and ingredients tend to be similar, if not the same.
Purchasing the main ingredient, squid, for a calamari dish can be done at grocery stores that carry seafood, or at a local seafood market. While typically the squid is already cleaned and washed, if still whole, the fishmonger may be willing to remove the tentacles, clean, and wash it before you purchase it. Cleaned squid will typically come in two forms: whole bodies and tentacle bunches. To make a calamari dish, the bodies should be sliced into thin, finger-width rings, while the tentacle bunches can be left whole. The most important thing to remember when slicing calamari is to keep all of the pieces around the same size to ensure a uniform cooking time.
Once you have sliced up the calamari, it is time to coat them in breading or batter. Which one you use will depend on the recipe you have found; the most important thing to remember is to dry all of the pieces of moisture. Moisture can prevent batter or breading from correctly sticking to pieces, or even cause the cooking oil to spatter, so it’s important to remember this step. Next, you can begin to fry the pieces. Oil such as peanut oil or vegetable oil is perfect for frying calamari because neither will impart an overbearing flavor and both can heat to a high temperature without smoking.
It is essential to the success of the dish that the oil is heated to exactly the right temperature that the recipe specifies because oil that is not hot enough will make the calamari soggy instead of crispy and crunchy. Using a thermometer that is designed to read oil temperature will assist you with monitoring the perfect temp for frying. Once the calamari is in the oil it can only be cooked for a short period of time; usually only a minute. If left to fry to long, it will become tough and rubbery. You know the calamari is finished when it turns a pale, golden color. Do not let it become a deep golden brown because that will mean the calamari has been overcooked.
Once the calamari has been removed from the oil, it’s a good idea to drain it on a mesh cooling rack or on top of a paper towel in order to remove the extra oil before serving. Lastly, add a pinch of salt and pepper while it is still hot. Calamari is best served with marinara or tartar sauce. Make sure to serve it while it is still warm since it has a short period of time that it stays at a perfect consistency without becoming dry.
The following is an example recipe for an exquisite fried calamari:
3 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 squid, cleaned and sliced into rings
1 lemon – cut into wedges, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. Preheat oil in a deep, frying pan or pot. Oil should be heated to 365 degrees F (180 degrees C).
2. In a medium to large mixing bowl mix together flour, salt, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. Dredge squid through flour and spice mixture.
3. Place squid in oil for no more than 2 minutes until light brown in color. Beware of overcooking, squid will be tough if overcooked. Dry the calamari on paper towels or mesh cooking rack. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with wedges of lemon.
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