You can make light and crispy calamari — the kind you get at clam shacks and Italian-American restaurants — without a deep fryer. Compared to frying fish or chicken, frying squid is a breeze thanks to its small size and quick cook time. A few crucial steps ensure success: Soak the squid in milk to reduce fishiness and help the coating stick. A little baking powder and cornstarch in the mostly-flour coating keeps it airy and delicate. (Add paprika or black pepper for spice, or let the mild flavor shine through.) Then, to keep the squid from toughening, fry it hot and fast; just a couple minutes will do it. Eat right away with a squeeze of lemon or marinara sauce.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1cup whole milk or buttermilk
- Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 1pound squid tubes and tentacles, cleaned, rinsed and patted very dry
- 1 ½cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓cup cornstarch
- 2tablespoons baking powder
- 2teaspoons paprika or black pepper (optional)
- Neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable, for shallow frying
- Lemon wedges and/or warmed marinara sauce, for serving
Step 1In a medium bowl, stir together the milk and 2 teaspoons salt. Cut the squid tubes 3/4-inch-thick, then add to the milk mixture along with the tentacles. Let sit for 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. (Refrigerate if soaking for more than 15 minutes.)
Step 2In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and paprika or black pepper (if using). Use your hands to shake excess milk from the squid, then transfer to the flour mixture. Toss until well coated; you may need to open up the tubes to ensure their insides are coated in flour.
Step 3In a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium, heat ½ inch of oil to 375 degrees. Line a plate or sheet pan with paper towels. Add a handful of the squid to the oil and cook until golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir only after the coating seems to have set. (Any sooner and the coating could fall off.) Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer to the lined plate. Season with salt.
Step 4Return the oil to 375 degrees, fish out any browned bits, and repeat with the rest of the squid in batches. Eat with a squeeze of lemon and/or dunked in marinara sauce.