Crazy for Calamari

Renaissance Man clipped his wing this week replacing our eleven year old GE water heater.  Diagnosis from the doctor is that it is a sprained ligament in his right wrist so RM is limited in his wood turning for a few days.  Of course, he is right-handed.  The warranty for the water heater was for twelve years so it was fortuitous that it would go out now but these types of repairs are never timely.  Cold showers are not cool.  To cheer us both up and to take advantage of a seafood sale at Central Market,  I tried my cooking skills out on crisp five-spice calamari with spicy citric noodles.    Most of these ingredients I had in my pantry and frig except for the fresh squid tubes and potato starch.  I really love, love, love Thai/Japanese fusion recipes which is why I have this stuff on hand.  Living in the fort, we are privileged to have grocery stores devoted to ingredients essential in this type of cuisine.  Since we hosted two Thai students in our home many years ago, we learned how to hunt and find all over the metroplex the required  ingredients to soothe a home-sick Thai adolescent hankering for his or her mother’s cooking.  That need is universal.   The little grocery store on Belknap is my favorite.  C3 will go with me but she holds her nose the entire time we are there.  Wonder what is more unusual?  The intense smell… or a young woman walking around the store with her nose pinched?  There are some ripe and smelly ingredients in this type of cooking (actually in all kinds of cuisines) that most of us – mid-westerners for sure- are just not accustomed too but they are delicious once you get more familiar with how they are put together.

For this dish, you will need to gather:

  • small package of soba noodles
  • sesame oil
  • chili sauce
  • Ginger
  • Honey
  • Light brown sugar
  • Juice of one large grapefruit
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • sea salt and white pepper
  • potato starch
  • eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. squid tubes
  • fresh basil, cilantro, and mint

Seems like a long list but nearly everything on this last has a long shelf life and can be used in other asian inspired recipes.

calamari ingredients

First step, is to make the dressing for the noodles.

Stir together two tablespoons of chili sauce, one tablespoon grated ginger, one tablespoon honey, one tablespoon brown sugar, and juices from grapefruit and lemon.  I then threw in a couple of those crazy spicy dried chilies and whisked it all together.  See them floating on top of the sauce/dressing?  Be sure to not eat these chilies unless you are one of those crazy Texans that eat jalapenos whole…these are hotter…a lot hotter.

calamari sauce

calamari grapefruit

Look how pretty this grapefruit is!  Yes, it is locally grown.

For the calamari:  Stir together about one tsp. five-spice powder, dash of salt and white pepper and set aside.  Whisk together two heaping tablespoons of the potato starch (seems just like cornstarch to me but hoping it makes the fried calamari light and crisp) and three egg yolks.

calamari dredge

I added a little bit of the five-spice to the potato starch dredge as well just to give it a darker, richer flavor and it worked.

calamari eggs

Eggs were just about to freeze so note to self to move the container away from the back of the frig.  They still worked in the recipe. Whisk the eggs with the dredge above.

Time to cook the soba noodles for less than 10 minutes in boiling water, then plunge into an ice cube water bath, rinse and toss in sesame oil.  Set aside.

calamari soba noodles

Time to prepare the squid tubes.  Just rinse them from the container provided by the fishmonger and slice them into rings.  These were very clean and fresh…no fishy smell.  The cat didn’t come around anyway.

calamari squid tubes without herbs

Pour oil into a wok or frying pan and heat to 350 degrees.  Have you acquired that digital instant thermometer yet?  Dip the calamari rings into the batter and using a slotted spoon fry in the hot oil for about two minutes.   You have to work fast so get everything set up in assembly line fashion before you begin to fry. Transfer fried calamari to a paper-towel-lined plate and then sprinkle with five-spice, pepper and salt.  Here is a picture of mine frying up on the trusty Vulcan range.

calamari frying

To serve, divide the noodles into individual bowls, drizzle the sauce over the noodles, top each with calamari, and then more dressing over the top.  Mix together basil, cilantro and mint stems and add some lemon slices for a fresh addition.

calmari and wine

Voila!  Add a screened in porch and cool bottle of Chardonnay and you are in nirvana.calamari complete

Here is a close-up.  The potato starch did help the calamari stay crispy and light.  The five-spice powder in the dredge made it darker in appearance which I liked.  RM was able to help clean-up even with the gimpy wrist.

Blogging this made me hungry for sushi.  We will join friends Chas and Anna this afternoon at Cowtown Sushi in Southlake, Texas – gotta love our restaurant names here in the lone star state.  I will be sure to snap a few pictures to share with you all in future blogs.  Don’t you just love lazy Sunday afternoons?  Peace.

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