There are few dishes extra emblematic of informal American eating than fried calamari. These crispy, succulent strips of squid are simple finger meals, good for sharing family-style with a facet of marinara sauce for dipping.
Fried calamari is a comparatively latest addition to the American menu. The truth is, it solely rose to prominence on American menus within the late Nineteen Seventies, based on this The New York Times analysis of food trends. Across the similar time, in an effort to curb overfishing, state and federal marine conservation applications pushed the restaurant business to contemplate adopting squid on their menus. At this time, you will discover fried calamari just about anyplace, like roadside clam shacks, bars, and, after all, at tried-and-true Italian-American red-sauce joints.
And whereas sharing a plate of fried calamari at a restaurant is how most of us get pleasure from it, that doesn’t imply you may’t even have fried calamari at dwelling—in actual fact, as fried meals go, it is fairly simple. The secret’s within the particulars: particularly soaking the squid earlier than giving it a well-balanced dredging, adopted by a fast cooking time, for a lightweight, golden crust and tender squid that is by no means squishy, grease-laden, or rubbery.
I begin by soaking the squid in milk and salt for as much as two hours, which mellows out any fishy flavors and seasons the meat. Due to its slight viscosity, milk additionally helps the flour coating adhere to the squid.*
*Marinating in dairy is claimed to have a tenderizing impact on meat on account of lactic acid. Whereas this method may go for different meats, I didn’t discover dairy to provide any game-changing enhancements within the texture of the squid right here.
Then, to construct a crisp, evenly browned exterior, I go for a mix of wheat flour and cornstarch. Proteins in wheat flour promote browning, a little bit of baking powder aerates the coating, and cornstarch retains the dredge crisp and mitigates greasiness. That mentioned, the precise ratio is a matter of private choice. If desired, you may dial down the cornstarch to cut back the crispness (or omit it fully—the calamari will nonetheless be scrumptious), or improve it barely for a extra crunchy shell. Simply compensate accordingly with the quantity of flour in order that you find yourself with roughly the identical quantity of dredge.
Fast cooking means tender squid, so when it comes time to fry, success is basically a matter of sustaining a gradual temperature and cooking the squid for just some minutes. To maintain the temperature from dipping too low, the very best strategy is to begin with the oil a bit hotter than you will actually need (round 365°F/185°C) to so that it will drop into the perfect zone (round 275-300°F/135-150°C) as soon as the squid is added. From there, simply use a thermometer and regulate your warmth accordingly to maintain it within the zone.