Calamari is the official appetizer of the state of Rhode Island. And for good reason. Squid means big business, and what we catch in Rhode Island accounts for up to 50% of the east coast’s quota every year! Squid have a lifespan of 12 to 18 months, reproduce twice a year, and can be caught year-round, with very few catch limitations, making it lucrative for fishermen.
Great fried calamari is an art form. It may seem like a simple dish, but to make it light and crispy, you need to be on your game. That’s why it can be a real hit-or-miss item on most restaurant menus. And there’s nothing worse than getting what would have been a great plate of calamari had the chef not decided to pour sauce all over it, turning the crispy cephalopod into mush.
What makes great fried calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild caught in the US (preferably Rhode Island!) and properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy.
1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)
1 cup flour (I use gluten-free these days)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1 large egg
oil, for frying (I use avocado oil)
Thaw the squid and slice into bite-sized rings. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
In another bowl, combine flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.
Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, let some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place immediately into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like. (But keep the sauces on the side for dipping.)
About the oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures.