On my plate this week was Fried Squid, also known by the Italian name – Calamari. I love squid and everywhere I go – locally, regionally or internationally – if Fried Squid is on the menu, you bet I am ordering it.
Over the years there have been more misses than hits when eating out and having Fried Squid – they have been mostly overcooked, hard. The best that I have eaten to date was at Mike Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago in the United States.
Squid is related to octopus and is a seafood that cooks up quickly. You have 2 options when cooking squid – fast on high heat or slow on low heat, anything in between that and you are eating hard, chewy bits that make you think of erasers. Growing up, whenever we had squid, as is the wont in Guyana about many things, it was always curried. It was never a quick bunjal (dry curry) though, rather it was a slow-cooked curry yielding tender rings with a thick sauce ladled over hot white rice. So very good! These days when I cook squid it is mostly fried. On occasion, I will stuff squid and cook it slowly in the oven. My favourite way to have it though is fried.
Last week my fish guy, surprised me with a couple pounds of squid. I had been asking him for squid for months on end, however, he explained that the local fishermen usually use the squid as bait so rarely is there squid for sale. So, when he came to the market with squid, I was ecstatic and could not wait to reach home to cook my Saturday lunch of Fried Squid and tostones – twice fried green plantains.
In addition to frying, squid can also be grilled, braised, in a curry or stew, or stuffed (as I mentioned earlier). It can be added to dishes like Paella, Risotto, soups, and pasta, a quick stir fry is ideal too.
Frying can be an intimidating cooking technique for many, however, frying squid is instructive in that it tells you exactly when it is done cooking – you hear it! As soon as the sound of the frothing oil begins to subside, take the squid out immediately, it is guaranteed to be tender and finished cooking. Because it takes little time to cook – about 30 seconds, the oil must be very hot,
almost smoking hot.
Here are a few other tips to note when making Fried Squid:
● Pat the sliced rings dry.
● Coat the rings in seasoned flour – salt and black pepper or other dried
seasoning added to the flour. If there is not enough salt in the seasoned
flour, sprinkle on salt as soon as you remove the squid from the hot frying
pan so that it adheres.
● You can choose to do one of 2 things after seasoning – fry immediately or
separate the rings onto sheet pan or wire rack to air dry for about 15
minutes and then deep fry. Letting the squid air dry after seasoning helps
the breading to adhere better when cooked.
● If frying immediately add a batch of the squid to a sieve to shake off the
excess flour before adding to frying pan.
● Do not discard the head of the squid, it is edible.
● Deep frying is best for fried squid.
Fried Squid makes a really good snack and bar appetizer. Serve the Fried Squid with tartar sauce, salsa or some other spicy sauce with some acid and heat.