The unusual idea of using graham cracker crumbs to flavor calamari came to Danny accidentally while enjoying a quick bite one afternoon at a San Francisco bar. He was with the cafe's first chef, Ali Barker, and while munching on some tender calamari tentacles, asked why they tasted so good. Barker answered: "I think it's cardamom. You know, the spice that tastes like graham crackers." The bar's chef revealed that he had used "nothing but flour, salt and pepper." Even though the two had mis-guessed the ingredients, the idea still sounded intriguing, and they experimented with a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and flour. The results were fantastic. The sugar in the crumbs caramelizes while the calamari are frying, allowing them to reach a perfect golden brown long before they've become overcooked and rubbery. Lastly, the sweet contrast with the spicy, salty dip is addictive. If you clean the calamari yourself, separate the tentacles from the body. Remove the ink sac and cartilage from inside the head, and under cold running water, peel the dark skin from the body. Rinse well.
- 1 egg, at room temperature*
- 4 to 5 anchovy fillets
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 3/4 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 pound fresh, clean calamari
- 4 cups light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a food processor, combine the egg, anchovies, lemon juice, parsley, and cayenne. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil to make a mayonnaise. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate, covered tightly, for up to 2 days, until ready to serve.
Cut the calamari into 1/4-inch rings. If the tentacles are large, halve or quarter them lengthwise. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Pour the oil into a heavy-bottomed, straight-sided 3-quart saucepan, about 8 inches in diameter. To prevent the oil from bubbling over when frying the calamari, the pan should be no more than 1/3 full. Heat the oil to 360 degrees F on a deep fat thermometer. (to check the temperature without a thermometer , drop a small piece of bread the size of a crouton into the oil. It should float to the surface immediately and brown lightly in about 45 seconds.)
Combine the flour and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Divide the calamari into 2 or 3 batches for easier frying. Toss each batch in the flour mixture to coat evenly. Shake the calamari in a mesh strainer to shed excess coating. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, gently lower each batch of calamari into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. The cooked calamari can be kept warm in a low oven while you continue. Check your oil temperature (360 degrees F) and repeat with the remaining calamari. Serve hot with the chilled anchovy mayonnaise.
* Professional Recipe
This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional and makes a large quantity. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe in the proportions indicated and therefore cannot make any representation as to the results.
* Raw Egg Warning
Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method.