Squid, or Calamari as it is known in the restaurants, was always either used as berley or bait when I was young. About 20 years ago now, that all changed. Australians were suddenly introduced to squid as a menu item. Now there is hardly a restaurant out there without squid on the menu somewhere.
On southern Australia we are fortunate to have access to a relatively good squid fishery. Most fishermen have caught squid from a local jetty or breakwater. The Southern Calamari is one of the most fished for species in this part of the world, and it’s all due to its table qualities.
Credit: Steven Pike
The simple deep fried squid ring is very well known and is, by far and away, the most popular method of cooking these delicious cephalopods.
First of all the squid has to be cleaned. This is a messy job. The easiest way is to slip your fingers into its tube, the body, behind the head. Along the inside of the tube you will feel the pen; that’s the clear ‘backbone’. Slide your fingers under the pen and get a good grip. Hold the head with the same hand and pull. Hopefully the head, pen and most of the innards will come away from the body. You will now be left with the body and the wings, or flaps. You should be able to feel where the wings join the body. Slide your fingers between the wings and the body and pull the wings away. Now you have the ‘tube’. You need to remove the skin, and a handful of sand is the easiest way to do this. The sand will allow you to grip the body, which is slimy with the skin on it, and pull the skin off. It is sometimes necessary to turn the tube inside out to remove ink or guts from the inside of the tube. When it’s all cleaned up, you should be left with a nice clean white ‘tube’.
The next step is to cut the tube into rings. This is simplicity itself. Once all the rings have been cut, I usually wash and clean each ring individually. This is time consuming, but it ensures all your squid rings are perfectly clean.
Next, lightly dust all the rings in flour. Beat some eggs in a bowl, and dip the rings in the egg. Using a medium sized plastic bag, pour some breadcrumbs into the bag. Put some of the egg coated rings into the bag, seal it with some air trapped inside, and then shake it so the breadcrumbs cover each ring. Place the coated rings onto a plate until they are all done. Then place them into the refrigerator for at least one hour before cooking.
A deep fryer is the easiest way to cook them. Fill the deep fryer up and make sure the oil is hot. Cook the rings in the hot oil for no more than a minute. In fact, about 40 seconds would be ideal. When the rings are a nice golden colour remove them from the oil and allow them to drain for a short time.
Cooked in this way, the rings are very tender and, because you took the time to remove every last trace of skin, there is no evidence of the dreaded ‘stringy bit’ when biting into the rings.
Served with chips and either tartare or seafood cocktail sauce, it is a very simple meal that the whole family will enjoy.