After recently being introduced by a co-worker to the wonders of deep fried brussels sprouts, I decided to go ahead and purchase a deep fryer. I decided to go with the Waring Pro DF280 as this is the one my co-worker has and she gave a pretty favorable review of it. I've used the deep fryer a number of times since it arrived, and overall I've been very happy with it.
The other day I watched an episode of Neighborhood Kitchens, which is a cooking show on PBS where the host visits local restaurants around Boston and cooks dishes offered at the restaurant. For this particular episode, the host was visiting an Italian restaurant called Bistro 5 in Medford. One of the restaurant's most popular appetizers is a dish of fried calamari with a sweet sour tomato chutney. This looked like a perfect dish to use our new deep fryer, so I decided to try to re-create it.
The sauce doesn't take long to make but it is the most involved part of the dish (the calamari only takes a minute to fry), so that's what I started on first. First, you take a few cloves of finely sliced garlic, diced ginger, salt, and dried red pepper flakes and sauté all of those ingredients over medium heat in some olive oil for a minute or two. The heat activates the essential oils and flavors, but you don't want to go too far otherwise the garlic will burn.
Once the garlic and ginger are fragrant, add a sweetener like honey or maple syrup. I had agave in my pantry, so this is what I used.
Next I added some vinegar to add the sour component to the sauce. Sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar all work. Try to avoid using black balsamic, as it's a little too aggressive. It also turns the sauce dark.
Turn up the heat on the stove and let the mixture reduce. The mixture should be a little syrupy.
Finally, add in some fresh chopped tomatoes. The chef at Bistro 5 used some cherry tomatoes that he halved, but any kind of fresh, ripe tomato will work fine. Let the mixture cook for a few additional minutes, and the chutney will be ready.
The second component of the dish is the fried calamari itself. There are lots of different ways to fry calamari. Some recipes call for egg batters, others don't. The Italian way is to not use any egg and instead simply dredge the calamari in flour. I've seen Lidia Bastianich use straight all-purpose flour, but the chef at Bistro 5 recommended a mixture of both AP flour and semolina flour. According to him, AP flour results in a coating that's too crisp - the semolina is a bit softer, and the combination of the two results in the perfect crunch.
Once the calamari bodies and tentacles are cleaned, prepped, and dried, dredge the calamari in the flour mixture with some salt and then gently remove any excess flour. You just want a light dusting of flour on the calamari.
I started up my deep fryer and set it to 375 degrees F. The Waring deep fryer comes up to temperature pretty quick, which is nice. It also has a lid on it, so you don't have to worry about any splattering of oil if there is any moisture in what you're frying. After about a minute or so in the fryer, the calamari was ready.
Here's the final dish all plated up again. The fried calamari is perfectly crisp with a nice, light batter and pairs really well with the tomato chutney that's sweet, sour, and savory. The chutney has that great balance that keeps your palette excited and wanting to go back for more. Overall, this is a pretty simple appetizer that is absolutely delicious.