Friday, March 18, 2011

2-2 Calamari for One

The first time I tried calamari, was after someone had ordered it as an appetizer for our table of diners. I loved its flavor and I also loved the sauces that came with it. Each dipped bite was satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and tender-chewy on the inside.

These days, if I am presented with the opportuity, I will order calamari as an entree...for sharing. If I am lucky, the plate of breaded circles will be out-of-this-world delicious! On the other hand, some who have served calamari to me have failed miserably to provide what they promoted.

I do remember that the worst calamari I ever ate was in Rome, Italy. My husband and I had landed, checked into our hotel and set out to find local food. I expected that part of the world to have wonderful, fresh and properly prepared seafood. The calamari brought to me was heavily breaded and soggy. The bands of squid inside were the thickness of tiny rubber bands...I was shocked and quite angry to have been cheated like that.

The best calamari I have ever eaten, on the other hand, came from a little Italian restaurant located in West Dundee, IL, called Francesca's. Tha calamari was perfection. (The restaurant is a chain with a heavy presence in the Chicago area. There are also locations in California and Arizona).

If you love calamari and want to enjoy a plateful at home, the recipe below is wonderful and takes little time to prepare. The breading is the same one I used for Fried Green Tomatoes # 1-137. Seasoning may be adjusted per taste preferences.

Calamari for One

6 oz. frozen calamari rings (freshly cut rings may be used if available)
1/2 C milk
1/2 C all purpose flour
Salt, pepper blend, paprika,
1 egg, beaten
1 C Panko bread crumbs
Canola oil

Newman's Marinara Sauce (other sauces may be used)

Pour 3 inches of oil in a small pot (or use a deep fryer as directed); heat on med hot to 375 degrees. Use a frying thermometer.

Thaw frozen calamari rings by running them under water; drain on paper towels. Put 1/2 C milk in a dish, 1/2 C flour in a second dish, beat an egg in a 3rd dish and put the crumbs in a plastic bag. Season the flour with salt, paprika and a good pepper blend; each, to taste. Place drained rings in milk and coat evenly. Lift rings out with a fork and place in flour; toss rings gently to coat lightly. Remove rings with tongs and place in beaten egg. Stir gently to coat evenly. Use tongs to place rings in bag with Panko crumbs. Holding top of bag closed, shake contents gently. When oil reaches 375 degrees, place 3 coated rings in hot oil. Turn once until lightly browned on all sides. Cooking takes 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook or rings will be tough and rubbery.

Remove browned rings to drain on paper towels and continue with remaining rings. Do not overcrowd pot. Watch oil temperature, remove pot from heat intermittently if temperature rises too high; return  pot to burner as necessary. Serve with lemon wedges and sauce if desired.

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