Squid, whether deep-fried as calamari or slow-cooked in a rich, flavorful sauce, is regularly enjoyed in restaurants, yet even the most accomplished cooks might be leery of preparing it at home. This is most likely due to squid's reputation, when inexpertly cooked, for being tough and chewy. Avoid this disappointing fate by employing one of two cooking methods: deep-frying for a very short time, or slow braising for a long time. Buy squid, whether fresh or frozen, that’s already been cleaned and is ready to slice and cook.
Slice the mantle of the squid -- the tubular body part -- into rings of equal thickness. Alternatively, slice the tube open, flatten it out and slice it into bite-sized pieces. Score diagonal lines in both directions across these flat, bite-sized pieces. Slice tentacles into 1-inch pieces.
Pour cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, vegetable or peanut oil, into a saucepan so that it is about one-third full. Heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer.
Pat the squid pieces dry with paper towels, then dredge them with all-purpose flour, corn flour or a blend of the two. Shake excess flour off the squid pieces so they only have a light coating.
Fry a handful of the floured squid pieces in the pan of hot oil for 2 to 4 minutes total. Don’t crowd the pan -- each piece should have room to move around in the hot oil. Cook in batches if necessary.
Transfer the fried squid immediately to a paper towel-lined bowl or plate. Sprinkle with salt and serve with dipping sauces and lemon wedges.
Slice squid into pieces in the same manner as for the deep-frying method.
Prepare a stew, sauce, soup or curry using a recipe of your choice that you think would work with squid. It could be a garlicky, tomato-based sauce with red wine, onions and fresh herbs; an Indian curry with fragrant spices and a base of fish stock and tomatoes; or a Thai curry made from store-bought curry paste and coconut milk.
Bring the stew, sauce, soup or curry to a simmer and add the pieces of squid.
Simmer the mixture for at least an hour. If the stew, sauce, soup or curry starts to get too thick, add more liquid -- either stock or plain water.
Taste a piece of squid to see if it is ready or needs to cook for longer. Serve when the squid is tender.
- Some chefs say that soaking squid in milk or buttermilk for an hour or more before cooking tenderizes it.
- When frying squid, add seasonings such as garlic or paprika to the flour for some added flavor.
- Cut the bodies of squid into larger, hand-sized steaks, flour or bread them and pan fry for a minute or two per side. These calamari steaks are delicious in sandwiches with some tartar sauce.
- When deep-frying, never leave a pan of hot oil unattended, and don't let it overheat.
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