serves: 4 servings
Squid were relatively abundant along the Istrian coast when I was a child. We usually had them fried in crisp golden rings, and a favorite accompaniment was radicchio zuccherino primo taglio, the first cut of the immature plant of the sweetest member of the chicory family, which grows around Trieste, Treviso, and Istria in the late spring and early summer. The secret of frying squid to appetizing crispiness is to have it as dry as possible before it gets floured, then shake the excess flour off before it goes into the pan; to give the squid enough space so that the oil can circulate freely around it; and to not cover it completely with oil, but to give it air in which to breathe and expel its residual moisture.
3 pounds medium squid
3 cups vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Clean the squid. Detach the wings (fins) from the body and cut them in half from base to tip. Cut the body sac into 1/4-inch rings, discarding tip of sac, which may contain residual sand. If the tentacles are larger than bite-size, cut them in two lengthwise. Drain all pieces well in a colander, pat them as dry as possible in a cloth towel and divide into two batches. Heat 1 1/2 cups of the oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat until it registers 375 degrees on a frying thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge half the calamari in flour to evenly coat all sides. Bounce the calamari in a sieve to remove excess flour.
When the oil reaches temperature or when one coated calamari ring gives off a lively sizzle when lowered into the oil, add the coated calamari a few pieces at a time. Fry, carefully tilting the skillet as necessary so the oil reaches all pieces, until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn the calamari and fry until the second side is golden, about 2 minutes.
Remove the calamari with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Discard the oil and repeat with the remaining oil and second batch of calamari. Sprinkle evenly with salt and serve immediately.