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
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.