squid

Once upon a time — before the Kardashians careered into our collective consciousness — there was such a thing as too much information.

My own introduction to TMI came courtesy of an acquaintance I’ll call Jilly.

I met Jilly through the ad agency I worked for. She was new to town and asked if I’d like to have dinner. Before we even ordered wine, she began telling me about:

  1. The ex-boyfriend who was stalking her;
  2. The date who was freaked out by the ex-boyfriend stalking her;
  3. The night she met Cheech (yes, that Cheech);
  4. The night she spent with Cheech;
  5. The Valentine’s date Cheech invited her on;
  6. The dress, bra and panties she bought to wear on the date Cheech invited her on;
  7. The way Cheech stood her up, leaving her all alone while the ex-boyfriend stalker peered through her blinds.

“Oh,” she chirped as the waiter came over for our order. “Let’s have calamari.”

I didn’t like calamari. I didn’t want calamari. But I was so thankful for a lull in the TMI cascade that I nodded enthusiastically.

“I don’t usually eat calamari,” I told her.

“Oh, you’ll love it here,” she said. “So, do you think Cheech will leave his wife for me? Why do you think …

blah blah blah

I never had dinner with Jilly again. But bless her Cheech-lovin’, too-much-information-given’ heart. I learned to love calamari that night.

Number one, it was delicious. Lightly breaded, lightly fried and doused with abundant amounts of lemon juice, this was calamari like I’d never had. The light touch let the subtle, saline flavor of the mollusk shine through; the breading acted as a complement rather than a coverup; the lemon brought a freshness and pop to the entire dish.

Number two, it shut Jilly up. As long as calamari was on Jilly’s plate, it kept her mouth full and stopped her from spilling ever more intimate details about her life.

Hmmm, calamari as a weapon against TMI. Could we use it as an antidote to Kim and Kanye?

Kim & Kanye Calamari

cali1

Fried foods don’t often grace our dinner table, but this is a fun, once-in-awhile dish that’s perfect for Friday night dinners. It isn’t terribly pretty, but it’s fun family fare. I like to throw the fried and drained squid into a big wooden bowl, toss it with a lot of lemon, and serve it with a romaine, tomato and cucumber salad. Ahhh, the sounds of silent people munching.

Thaw 1 package of whole, cleaned calamari. Dry the thawed squid, then cut off the tentacles and slice the bodies into 1/2-inch rings.

squid saucePlace the squid into a bowl and cover it with buttermilk (you’ll use about 1 1/2 cups). Add half a thinly sliced onion, 2-3 smashed garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and a generous amount of Tabasco sauce (10 or more shakes). Mix with your hands, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours. (I like to prepare this in the morning and let the calamari hang out in its marinade all day.)

About 45 minutes before dinnertime, drain the calamari. (Be sure to keep the onions and garlic … they’ll cook up deliciously!) In a plastic zip-top bag, pour in 2/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup coarse cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, some pepper and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (if desired). Combine well.

squid breaded1Add the calamari and onions to the flour mixture, shaking well. Remove them and place in a single layer on waxed paper to dry for 30 minutes. (This step is key! If you omit it, you’ll end up with a soggy dinner!)

If you have a deep fryer, fry your calamari according to its directions. I don’t, so I heat 1- to 1 1/2 inches of canola oil in a cast-iron skillet. When bubbles form around the end of a wooden spoon inserted in the oil, I know the fat is ready. Working in batches and being careful not to crowd the pan, slip the calamari into the oil, and fry it for 2-3 minutes, until the breading is golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and continue until all the squid is cooked.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Squeeze on the juice of 1 lemon.

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