November 6, 2008

Rhode Island Style Calamari

I'm a big fan of fried calamari, and almost always order it when I see it on a menu. On our way back from Maine this summer, Jesse and I stopped in at Portsmouth Brewery for dinner and drinks on a very rainy night. We blindly ordered "Rhode Island style calamari" from their menu, not realizing what that meant until it arrived, fried calamari mixed in with hot peppers - so hot, in fact, that we struggled to finish the dish.

Recently, when I tasted my second batch of pickled peppers this weekend (and whoo boy are they hotter than the first batch - throwing in a couple jalapenos really worked) it immediately called to mind a chance to make Rhode Island style calamari at home. I've been jonesing to make fried calamari for ages, and I figured I would go milder with the spicy peppers by throwing in just in enough for some kick.

This was also my first attempt at deep frying, and I now don't know what I was always so scared of. It takes a lot of oil, but other than that, it's no problem. I heated two inches of olive oil in a big pot over medium heat, and I don't have a cooking thermometer, so I just winged it and figured that the oil was probably hot enough after five minutes or so.

Meanwhile, I removed the squid (pre-cleaned, from the farmers market of course) from from its soak in a bowl of milk, salt, and pepper, drained it, and dredged it in a mixture of half flour-half cornmeal and more salt and pepper. Into the pot they went, about five at a time for about 2 minutes at a time, and then I removed them with a slotted spatula and let them drain on paper towels. Use a LOT of paper towels - the massive oil coming off the calamari soaked right through my paper towels. To finish it off, I warmed up a heaping half cup of tomato sauce with the pickled peppers, and tossed it all together.

As you can also see, the calamari looks rather long and tubular. I stupidly forgot to slice the squid into little rings before dredging and frying them. Don't make that mistake - you'll get more crunchy fried surface area and a more tender bite if you cook them in small pieces. For some reason, a lot of the flour-cornmeal mixture fell off in the cooking process, so it didn't have that restaurant-quality all-around crunchy coating, but it was good enough for us. The peppers, on the other hand, got pushed to the side for being too hot again. Next time I'll leave out the peppers and make a fun mayo dipping sauce.

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