Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calamari

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Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I was the kind of kid who hid her lima beans behind the couch so she didn’t have to eat them.

Hid, as in, concealed them. As in, tucked them behind and under our hulking, scratchy sofa when my mom walked out of the room. Not so that I could savor them later. So I would never (ever, ever) have to see them again.

Nowadays, I eat almost everything. Liver. Oysters. Even lima beans.


But when I was a kid, I hated all of the usual suspects—including any and all kinds of seafood. Squid was near the top of my list of Grossest Foods Ever. It may have even been numero uno.

I mean, squid? Are you kidding me?

I remember my grandfather eating squid when I was a kid. It was chewy. It smelled funny. It was Old Man Food.

And besides, between 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Clash of the Titans, that Kraken made quite an impression on me at a young age. I was a smart kid: Things with tentacles were bad news.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhyuey4xU3Q[/youtube]

(Wait for the scene, it’s near the end of the trailer.)

To me, a squid was a gigantic, slimy thing that attacked ships, terrorized mermaids and damsels in distress, and tried to drag you to a deep, watery grave.

Why you would eat one was beyond me. They were icky. Hell, they were downright dangerous.

Fast forward ten years.

You see where this is going.

I’m about twenty. I live in Boston, in a studio apartment only slightly larger than a walk-in closet. I’m making peanuts working at a little newspaper, and I’m out after work at some swanky bar I had no business being at, drinking wine I couldn’t afford.

I blame the wine, but before I knew what I was doing, someone passed me the calamari and (drum roll), I grabbed a little ring and popped it into my mouth. (At this point in my life, I was 99% convinced that it wouldn’t attack me.)

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

…I swear, it changed my life.

Being a little dramatic, aren’t you, Mouse?

Oh, absolutely. But it’s really kinda true.

The coating was airy and crisp. The meat was tender, slightly briny, and utterly delicious. I was in love.

There’s really only one thing to know about cooking squid

Well, two or three, maybe. But this is the most important: You have to cook it quickly. And by quickly, I mean FAST.

If you overcook it, you might just as well have rubber bands for dinner.

In case you’d like a little cheese with your calamari

We’re awash with Halloween spirit all this month up here in Salem, Mass. If spooky appetizers are on your menu this season, only fry the tentacles and serve a basket of creepy Cthulhian Calamari. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Someone will appreciate that.)

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

The secret to a good crust on fried calamari

Let the calamari rest for about 15 minutes after you coat it. This lets the buttermilk and flour melt together into a thick coating that will stick when it hits the hot oil.

How to buy and clean fresh squid

Look for squid that are on the smaller side and have a clean fragrance. If you buy whole squid, be sure that the eyes are clear, not clouded (a sign that they’re not super fresh).

Here’s a great video on how to clean it from the folks at Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Maine.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM2R_evubhI[/youtube]

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of cleaning it yourself, you can usually find squid already cleaned. I like to buy an assortment of bodies and tentacles.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Serve these with lemon wedges or a side of spicy marinara dipping sauce.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calamari

1 lb. fresh squid, cleaned
2 cups buttermilk
4 cups flour
2 Tbls. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. kosher salt + more for garnish
canola oil for frying

Serves about 4

Cut the squid into rings

Slice the bodies into rings, like this:

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Set the rings aside for a minute while you get the stuff for the coating together.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Assemble your dredging station

Put the flour, garlic powder, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt in a large bowl. This mixture is spicy, but not knock-your-socks-off hot. Adjust the cayenne up or down if you like.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Stir with a whisk or fork until the mixture is uniform. Set it aside for a minute.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Put the buttermilk in a large bowl.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Put the squid (tentacles and rings) into the buttermilk.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Give them a good toss to get them good and soaked.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Line a sheet pan with wax paper and set it aside on the counter with the buttermilk and flour. You want the bowls and pan really close, because this can get messy.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Batter the squid

Here’s a tip for minimizing the mess when you bread the squid.

I like to keep one wet hand (for handling the squid in buttermilk) and one dry hand (for handling it once it’s gone into the flour). That way, both my hands don’t wind up breaded immediately. Resign yourself, though: You’ll probably be wearing soggy mittens before you’re done.

Fish out a few pieces of squid from the buttermilk. Don’t squeeze off the buttermilk.

Drop the squid into the flour mixture.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Toss to coat with flour.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Set them aside on your lined sheet pan.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Repeat with the rest of the squid until it’s all breaded. Pop the pan into the fridge for about 15 minutes to let the coating cure a little.

Fry the calamari in hot oil

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Set it on the stove over high heat.

While the oil is heating, line a sheet pan with paper towels or brown paper bags. Set it aside.

The oil is ready when you dip a piece of calamari (carefully!) into the oil and bubbles form around it immediately.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Fry the calamari in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pot.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Stir them around with a slotted spoon as they fry, turning them over so they cook on both sides. They’ll take about 3 to 5 minutes to fry, depending on size, thickness, etc.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

When they’re wearing nice, golden brown jackets, fish them out of the oil. Drain them well over the pot.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Then transfer them to your paper-lined pan.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Sprinkle with a little kosher salt when they’re hot out of the oil (this helps it stick).

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Serve. Inhale. Enjoy!

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calimari at The Hungry Mouse

What to do with leftover calamari

Freeze it.

Let the fried calamari cool completely, seal them in a zip-top bag, and toss them into the freezer.

To reheat, spread them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. They can go right from freezer to oven.

Pop them into a 400-degree oven until hot and crispy, about 10 minutes (keep a good eye on ’em).

Cheers!

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I would like a plate of that please! I love calamari but only when it is cooked properly like your recipe. I’ve had calamari where it just tasted like straight up rubber. ICK!

  2. We traveled the very same road on our way to loving Squid!!!! Wasn’t it a stellar moment when you discovered it was actually tasty? lol Great Post!!!

  3. Yeah, I totally know what you mean about trying squid for the first time. And I mean, everything fried is good – why wouldn’t squid be good, too? But that certainly didn’t dissaude me from keeping my distance for the first 18 years of my life.

    The best calamari I ever had was at a restaurant here in Denver called Ocean, that has since closed. I still can’t figure out what they put in their – it was a salad, with possibly watercress, and it was super spicy but super delish.

  4. I would feed liver to the cat under the table and put my daily dose of bran into my mother’s potted plants (she thought they were developing some sort of disease!)but I have always loved Calamari!

  5. my aunt always used to tell us the story of how her brother and her would stick peas and other veggies to the underside of the dining room table to avoid eating them. when they moved…well…you get the idea.

    related: my sister is 11 years younger than me, and one time i was home visiting and saw something under the edge of a chair. it was a vitamin that was half eaten. when i went to pick it up, i saw another. we moved the furniture and must’ve found about 2 dozen half sucked vitamins hidden around the house from my sister, lol, GROSS.

    though there are still things i avoid like the plague, thankfully squid was never one of them. perhaps because for years i just knew it as calamari, something fried that tasted good in ketchup. but you’re right, when it’s wrong, it’s horrible! it also helped growing up in RI and eating clamboils and seafood regularly. we always have it ‘mediterranean’ there. with banana peppers!

  6. Squid isn’t even allowed in our house. I’m married to a squid hater. She really does detest it.

    “Why would I want to eat a rubber band?”, she not unreasonably asks.

    On the other hand, I love it. My mum used to make calamari when we were very young, and she also added squid to stir frys, etc. She was very modern and trained our young pallettes well.

    I particularly like the tentacles, which, perversely, is the part that really turns my wife’s stomach. Even ordering squid in a restaurant makes her get a little agitated.

    I think I need a support group. Any other squid widowers in the north of England?

  7. […] Spicy Buttermilk Fried Calamari by The Hungry Mouse I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I was the kind of kid who hid her lima beans behind the couch so she didn’t have to eat them. Hid, as in, concealed them. As in, tucked them behind and under our hulking, scratchy sofa wh (…) Click here to read more … […]

  8. I LOVED clash of the titans. It was only the best movie ever when I was a kid (and still darn good to this day). But I can totally see why the Kraken might put you off squid. I bet he was really rubbery. (BTW- did you know that there’s a remake of Clash of the Titans coming out next year?)

  9. This is so making my mouth water. Why are you torturing me like this? My leftover roasted chicken lunch can’t possibly alleviate the massive craving for fried calamari that’s now taken hold of me!

  10. I am a FIEND about calamari and have often been the only one indulging when it’s on an appetizer platter. I have not found another who shares my insane love of deep fried squid. I don’t deep fry anything at home so the only time I can get this is when I am out, and not with my husband. He doesn’t want to see me eating tentacles. *sigh* I would love some right about now.

  11. I still have to wonder: Is it really the calamari that we love, or is it the deep-fried spicy batter?

    Calamira, sauteed — boiled — raw, would it taste nearly as good?

  12. Hmm, I grew up fishing with squid and could never for the life of my figure out why people would voluntarily eat it… Until an experience 10 years ago. Since then, I keep cleaned rings in the freezer. I was very upset when Trader Joe’s in my area quit stocking the frozen rings, but I found another store that carries them. I just picked some up this weekend. I season my fried calamari with Tony Chachere’s and serve it with a garlic lemon aioli.

  13. This is almost exactly the same way I discovered the wonders of squid…it was in a deep fried batter and it tasted -nothing- like the rubber thing I had as a kid. According to my friends, it’s fried in a salted egg batter with curry leaves…an oriental recipe. But oh so lovely. And now the only way I eat squid is deep fried in batter. No rubber-y chewing 😀 Thanks for the recipe btw!

  14. I agree.. was terrified of calamari for the past xx years.. fast forward 6 years past.. it’s freaking amazing.. thank you taste buds

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