Without a doubt, calamari is my favorite Greek island food. It’s the first thing I order when we land and the last thing I order before take off. My parents claim that my obsession with calamari started when I was about 10 months old and I don’t doubt it. I mean, what’s not to love? When cooked properly, the calamari is tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside and has a hint of ocean saltiness that is mellowed by the lemon that it’s served with.
I’d never attempted to make it myself before this past week because I generally get my calamari fix all summer long. But, since we didn’t make it to Greece this past summer, my mother took pity on me and picked up a couple of pounds of squid from the fish monger. The squid she picked up was already cleaned and cut into bite size rings, which is definitely the way to go. The second time my mom picked up squid (2 days after we first made it), she bought whole squid that we had to clean ourselves. While Parker thought this was a blast, it took us about 30 minutes to get it clean.
Here’s Parker helping us clean the squid (and by “us,” I mean my mom).
Okay, so once the squid is cleaned (or if you’ve bought it cleaned), the first thing you need to do is to sprinkle 1 tablespoon of baking soda on it and rub it into all of the squid pieces. Adding the baking soda is a tip that my mom got from a chef at our favorite taverna on the island. He said that it serves as a tenderizer and helps to prevent the chewiness that is the trademark of overcooked calamari.
Let the squid hang out with the baking soda for about 15 minutes and then rinse the heck out of it.
Alright, now we’re ready to cook these little guys. Dry them very well and set the squid aside. In a deep dish, add a cup or so of flour and about 1 tablespoon of salt (mix together). After the flour is ready for the squid, go ahead and get canola oil very hot. You know the oil is ready when a sprinkle of flour thrown in sizzles.
When the oil is hot, toss the squid in the flour/salt mixture.
Add the squid into the oil in small batches and keep an eye on it. It cooks very quickly.
Cook the calamari on one side for 3 minutes, flip it over using tongs and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
And that’s it! If the squid is already cleaned, the entire process takes less than 10 minutes. If you’re going to serve this Greek style, serve it with quartered lemon wedges. Marinara sauce is only something that the Italians do and in my humble (Greek) opinion, I think that the marinara sauce overwhelms the flavor of the calamari.
Now that I know how to make this dish (and how tasty it is at home), I’m going to be hard pressed not to make this on a weekly basis.