Breaded and fried, boiled or sauteed, calamari is tender and tasty when done right. However because of its delicate nature, cooking it just a little longer than recommended could leave you with rubbery, chewy calamari. Pre-soaking it in milk before cooking is one way to get this delicate squid nice and tender. Cooking it quickly over high heat or slowly over a very low heat are the best cooking methods to guarantee you succulent calamari.
Soak Calamari in Milk
Clean your calamari and cut it into individual tentacles and rings about 1/2 inch in size, if they did not already come pre-cut.
Place the calamari pieces in a bowl and cover them with whole milk. The lactic acid in the milk helps to tenderize the muscle fibers of the calamari, just as it does with other types of meat.
Put the bowl of milk and calamari in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. Let the calamari soak overnight, or for at least 2 to 3 hours.
Hot and Fast Cooking
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil or place a saute pan on the stove over high heat. If you are deep frying calamari, heat a pan with about 3 inches of vegetable oil to about 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and toss the calamari with seasoned flour.
Add the calamari to the boiling water or hot saute pan and let them cook for 60 to 90 seconds. If you let them cook any longer, you could wind up with rubbery calamari. The flour-dredged calamari should cook for a minute or so longer because the flour coating protects the calamari from cooking too quickly.
Remove the calamari from the heat immediately to prevent it from overcooking, whether you have boiled, sauteed or deep-fried your calamari. To further ensure tenderness, you can transfer your calamari to a shallow bowl and sit the bowl in a larger bowl of ice for a minute or so to help stop the cooking process.
Season your calamari to your liking with salt, pepper and any other seasoning you prefer. Serve them with lemon wedges.
Low and Slow Cooking
Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and bring to a medium heat on your stove.
Add any flavoring ingredients of your choosing to add to the braise. This can include diced onions, crushed tomatoes and chopped garlic. Cook until soft and fragrant.
Add the calamari and let it cook for about 30 seconds on high heat. Season the calamari to your liking during this time.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add your braising liquid. White wine, tomato sauce and chicken broth are all options. Scrape the pan with a spatula to mix in the sauteed ingredients. Let the braising liquid simmer uncovered for roughty 10 minutes. The liquid should reduce slightly.
Reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the calamari cook in the liquid for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the squid is very tender. Serve hot.