Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Junk Food: Fried Calamari

If there is one thing that tempts every naughty-bad-for-you receptor in my brain on a regular basis, it is fried calamari. I have an almost unabashed love for the stuff, even if the offering is obviously pre-breaded and frozen and bearing enough of a resemblance in texture to pencil erasers to make you uncomfortable. I love it! And it's kind of embarrassing! Ah, well, we all have our junk food vices, be it Doritos or...I don't know...some sort of Hostess cake. This is my #1 vice.

One of my most favorite food memories involves calamari, which isn't too surprising, I suppose. When I lived in New York I worked at a pretty horrible, but highly profitable (for me) bar on the Upper East Side. The clientele and majority of my coworkers were pretty miserable, but I worked with my great friend and roommate, and she helped make it worthwhile. We quickly volunteered to work Sunday afternoons, a virtual wasteland with no customers for the first several hours of the shift. Were we upset to be languishing away our Sunday afternoon making no money? Certainly not! We would order mediocre calamari from the kitchen, slather it with lemon and extra salt, and watch The Shining on the big screen television week after week. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was a really special time to me.

And so, when I received Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites as a gift from my lovely sister-in-law a couple of years back, I was of course immediately taken with her Salt and Pepper Squid recipe. The problem? Tracking down squid in my neck of the woods. Yes, there is a wonderful seafood store in town, but I never remembered to drop by until it was too late. And so, the months passed by with only the occasional restaurant splurge to feed my strange (and admittedly non-gourmet) obsession.

Until today. Today, whilst swinging through the North Knoxville Kroger's (where I never, ever shop), I spied a "New Item!" in the seafood department. That new item? A pound of lovely snow white squid, tentacles and tubes, ready for my greedy little hands to snatch them up.

And so, with no further hesitation, Nigella's recipe came to fruition. I, of course, made some changes to her instructions. She calls for a much coarser salt and pepper mixture, and while I am sure that makes this a teeny bit fancier, I knew what I was after and how to get it. I like lots and lots of lemon and a bit of extra salt sprinkled over the whole batch, and I highly recommend eating them hot, right off of the paper towel-lined plate.

Decidedly Not Fancy Fried Calamari
serves 2 (or even 1)

1 pound squid--cleaned, trimmed, and sliced into appropriate shapes
1/3 cup corn starch
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
roughly 2 cups vegetable oil
lemon wedges for serving

In a medium Dutch oven (or other heavy, deep pan), heat .5 inch of oil over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, mix the cornstarch and a generous amount of salt and pepper in a large zip-top bag. Toss the squid rings and tentacles into the bag, seal, and give a very thorough shake. When the oil is just smoking, add about half of the calamari. You shouldn't need to turn them, the oil should bubble up over the delicious bites nicely. After about 2 minutes, they should be a light golden brown (take care to not overcook, the color should be light). Use a slotted spoon to remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and sprinkle with salt. Fry the second batch. Serve with lots of lemon over the side, and share with a friend, sitting side-by-side. Or, you know, just devour the whole plate yourself.


Lis said...

Marianne! I thought I was the only gal in the world that constantly craved fried calimari! har!! This is so funny to me.. hubbs, m family and my friends all roll their eyes when eat out because the first thing out my mouth is "God, I hope they've got fried calimari"

Luckily, I have a pretty decent fish store near me so I can get my hands on them quite easily. I made several batches of the good stuff for our Christmas dinner.. luckily my cousins were in attendence so they helped me eat them (well they tried-my constant slapping of their hands made it hard for them to grab too many).

I love mine with a crispy light breading, lemon and sometimes marinara sauce =)

Do you have a preference for tubes or tentacles?

MM said...

We call it sotong and it's also one of my favourite foods. How strange but I just bought some today and am going to make a number of dishes from them from a squid, pomelo and green mango salad to a stuffed sambal sotong dish and finally a szechuan style squid dish. One of my favourite tapas bar serves a totally yummy fried calamari starter too ... perfect with a nice pitcher of sangria!

Adrien said...

Oh freaking YUM.

Marianne said...

I love the crunchy tentacles, which is perfect because my husband prefers the tubes. I'll eat it all, though.

MM--now that I have the fried craving out of the way I plan to try some non-fried squid recipes. I'll stay tuned to your blog, that salad sounds especially good.

Kevin said...


I'm sorry, but you're simply going to have to discontinue this blog. You're cooking far to many things I love.

And I guess I'm going to have to go by Krogers and see if they have squid.[grumble]

molly said...

Oh, MA, if you're ever in Raleigh I'll take you for some out-of-this-world fried calamari. I know just the place.

Marianne said...

Sorry, Kevin. I need to be making things with...I don't know, bran or something, instead of fried calamari and bread.

If you are near The Shrimp Dock in Bearden, they also have squid, and they are wonderful guys to boot.

Hungry Jaye said...

That picture is doing all sorts of things to me! It's 9:30am and now all I can think about is squid.

I absolutely love your blog. Your pictures are something else, they're real teasers!

The Shining and squid, that does make sense in an odd sort of way.

Kevin said...


Liver. Cook more liver. I hate liver. (I thinks it's the only food that's true of.)

I stop by the Shrimp Dock on occasion, but usually I have something specific in mind.

carolyn said...

I never knew fried calamari was so easy. I need to make that soon. Everything you make looks so damn good.

Marianne said...

But Kevin, what about fried chicken livers with some sort of remoulade? Or foie gras, Kevin, what about foie gras??

Cat (if this is the Carolyn I'm thinking of), you should try the calamari, it's so easy. And thank you for the compliment.

Robyn said...

Fried calamari is the only squid dish that I'd really want to eat.

Yup, that's a serving for one.

Passionate Eater said...

Happy Easter Ms. Canada! You said to eat the calamari with lemon, but don't forget, you have to down those deliciously salty fritters with a cold brewski!

Lauren said...

Oh, you. You know I am always going on and on about how I need to go to the Standard Tap and eat a plate of their calamari with remoulade sauce. I'll have to take you there--you will swoon.

Ian said...

What an amazingly simple recipe. This definitely goes to the top of my 'to try' list. I could happily live on fried calamari and onion rings. Or octopus. There's an excellent Dim Sum restaurant here in Toronto that makes really good octopus. Oh god. I guess I know where I'm going for lunch now.

Marianne said...

I am so pleased at the food-lust this entry has inspired! I am going to have to demand a tour of all of the great calamari places of the world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe! I was recently passed my mom's electric fryer, and the first recipe I will try in it is your calimari! I developed my LOVE of fried calimari was at a small beachside Greek-run pita, pizza, and fried fish place in Scarboro Beach, Western Australia. A hot basket of fresh "squid rings and chips" would always hit the spot.
- Claudia