There is no secret to making this extremely easy dish, which is an excellent antipasto or seafood course. The key is not to overcook the calamari or else it will become tough and tasteless. It should be tender and have its own flavor and not be covered with too much of a crust, which will pick up oil and make it taste greasy. The best way to ensure properly fried calamari is to maintain the temperature of the oil—370° to 380°F is best. Mixing a little cornmeal into the dredging flour adds crispness too.
Yield: Serves 4
1 pound cleaned squid (see Notes)
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons semolina flour or stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1. Cut the squid horizontally into ½-inch-thick rings. Cut the tentacles in half lengthwise. Pat the squid dry with paper towels.
2. In a shallow bowl or a plastic bag, mix the flour, semolina, salt, and pepper. Add the squid pieces, and stir or shake to cover with the flour mixture. Remove the squid, shaking the excess flour off the pieces, and place them on a wire rack. Let them sit for 10 minutes (this allows the coating to adhere well).
3. Pour the oil into a large saucepan (it should be 2 inches deep) and heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Carefully add one-quarter to one’ third of the squid pieces to the oil, without crowding them, and fry for 1½ minutes. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let the oil temperature rise back up to 375°F, and repeat with the rest of the squid.
4. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges or a side dish of Marinara Sauce.
Wine suggestion: Soave
If your fish market doesn’t sell cleaned squid, here’s how to clean it yourself. In a large bowl, soak the squid in cold water with a few ice cubes for 20 minutes. Then, holding the body of the squid with one hand, pull the head off with the other hand. Cut across the head, just above the eyes, and discard the part with the eyes and the innards. In the body part, a hard piece, the cuttlebone, will be protruding. Grab it and pull it out. The outside reddish skin of the squid is edible but can be removed if desired by pulling it off the main body.