Breading makes an effective disguise. Not that a crisp, satisfyingly crunchy golden-brown crust on some deep-fried delectable is anything less than glorious, it's just some foods are, well, ugly. For example, if there were a list of the world's most gorgeous foods, tentacled-and-bulbous calamari would rank lower than the depths of the ocean it comes from. So, it's usually battered to make it more visually appealing -- it can be hard for people to get over the tentacle thing. However, calamari without flour has an ocean-like taste and tender bite if you cook it fast and hot, for a true delight breading often covers up.
Things You'll Need
- Paper towels
- Kitchen knife
- High-smoke-point oil such as peanut, corn or sesame
- Tall-sided, heavy-bottomed frying pan
- Kosher salt
- Herbs and spices to taste (optional)
- Slotted spoon
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Take the calamari out of the fridge and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Blot the calamari dry with a paper towel. Drying the calamari allows it to sear faster and minimizes the inevitable popping and splattering you get with high-heat frying.
Slice the calamari into 1/2-inch pieces and season it to taste on all sides with kosher salt and pepper. Let the calamari sit at room temperature while you heat the oil.
Pour about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of high-smoke-point oil in a tall-sided, heavy-bottomed frying pan and place it on the stove. Set the burner to medium-high, or the "6" setting if your stove have graduated dials. The medium-high setting ranges from 375 to 449 Fahrenheit, and you need an oil that can handle that level of heat. Peanut, corn, safflower and sesame oil are all candidates for high-heat frying.
Add herbs and spices, in their whole form, to the oil just before you add the calamari, if desired. Pure fats, such as oil, extracts essential oils from herbs and whole spices, which in turn flavors the cooking oil. Red pepper flakes, peeled garlic cloves and dill sprigs all work with calamari.
Lower the calamari into the oil, using a slotted spoon. Stir the calamari pieces gently once so they don't stick to each other.
Flash-fry the calamari until it has a golden-brown color and is opaque throughout -- no more than one-and-a-half to two minutes' total cooking time.
Remove the calamari from the oil with a slotted spoon, letting it drain over the pan for a seconds before transferring it to a plate lined with paper towels. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the calamari while it's piping hot to amplify the citrus aroma.