When I was in graduate school in Boston, I worked part time at a hotel near the Prudential Center as a telephone operator. One day, a man called in and said, “May I speak to calamari?”
“That’s what I said. Calamari.”
“Calamari,” I repeated before transferring him to the restaurant.
A few seconds later, the call came back to my switchboard. “Why did you connect me to the restaurant. I want calamari. Cala-mari.”
I was stumped. “Do you know calamari’s extension by chance?” I inquired.
“No. Don’t you know it?”
“Well you should. She’s yah managah.”
“Oh, oh, you mean Carla Murray. Let me connect you.”
Because of that one conversation, I will never forget Carla Murray, but I must tell you, after that incident occurred, I was craving fried calamari all night long. On my break, I sprinted to Legal Seafoods to get my fix.
It’s risky ordering fried calamari at a restaurant. While most of the time your order will arrive tasting mouthwateringly crispy, there are those other instances when you bite into a gummy ring of inedible battered rubber. Well, I have a secret that will produce tender, succulent calamari every time you prepare it. Plus, I make it gluten-free. Whether you are making tubes and tentacles or steaks, this recipe will work for you.
1 lb. calamari tubes and tentacles or calamari steaks
1 cup almond milk or almond coconut blend milk
3/4 cup tapioca starch or non-GMO corn starch
1 cup gluten-free panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. organic coconut oil for frying
1. One hour before you intend to cook the calamari, pour the almond milk or almond coconut milk into a wide shallow bowl and soak the calamari. (This is the trick to tenderness.)
2. After one hour, do not rinse the calamari. If you are making tubes, remove them one by one and cut them into rings. Then place them back in the milk.
3. In another wide shallow bowl, beat one egg. Dip the calamari pieces or steaks in the egg. Make sure they are thoroughly coated.
4. On a long, doubled paper towel (4 sheets folded in half,) pour the tapioca or corn starch. Pour the panko bread crumbs on top of the starch. Mix them together with your hands.
5. Coat each piece of calamari in the mixture.
6. Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick skillet. Once the oil is hot, you should see small ripples. Add two steaks or 8-10 pieces of calamari rings and tentacles. Fry until golden and then turn over and repeat on the other side. If you crowd the pan, your calamari will not cook as well, so resist the urge to get done quickly and fry in batches instead.
7. Remove finished calamari and drain on clean paper towel.
8. Repeat this process until all the calamari is fried.
9. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. For rings and tentacles, I usually make a garlic/cilantro/lime aioli by mixing vegenaise with minced garlic, fresh chopped cilantro and lime juice – how much of each is up to your taste. For calamari steaks, I love to dip them in Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. Serve with lemon to amp up the flavor, and you may find you won’t need to add any salt at all.