Calamari is one of our favorite seafood dishes. They are crispy light bites of ocean candy and teach the essential technique of a quick dredge and deep-fry. It's very similar to fried chicken with a soak in dairy, which does a few important things. It sweetens the taste of fresh seafood by sucking out the strong ocean flavors that some don't like. It also creates the base of the crunchy batter by clinging to the cornmeal to make a phenomenal crust. And also like fried chicken, you can double dredge by running the crust through the cream, flour and cornmeal a second time. This technique also works with fish sticks, clams, oysters and cuttlefish. It's basically great for small bits of meat or seafood that need a crispy crust. Pair this with tomato sauce or some tartar sauce for a great starter or snack.
To make the calamari, clean the squid. To clean a whole squid, separate the head and tentacles from the body. With a paring knife, cut between the eyes and the tentacles, discarding the eye portion. In the center of the tentacles, push out a little round bead with the hard beak and discard it; reserve the tentacles. For the body section, peel off the flaps and the dark-colored membrane. Remove the quill, the plastic-like bone. Squeeze out the innards like squeezing out toothpaste. Rinse the tentacles and body sections and dry well. Cut the body sections into nice rings. Leave the legs intact.
Whisk the heavy cream and eggs together in a medium-size bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the squid, onion and lemon and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To make the dredge mix, combine the flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, paprika, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.
Pour the oil into a heavy 5-quart (4.5 L) Dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pot at least twice as deep as the oil and heat to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C) on a frying thermometer. Keep the lid nearby in case of emergency.
Drain the squid, onion and lemon, leaving some cream stuck to them, then immediately place in the bowl of flour. Roll everything around so the flour mix sticks to the cream like a heavy dredge. Knock off any excess. Fry in small batches until crispy and golden brown, about 1 minutes. Drain well on paper towels or a rack and season again with a little salt and pepper.
Garnish with the chopped parsley and lemon zest, and serve with the marinara.
If you can't find squid, cuttlefish is readily available at the fishmonger. They are squiddy cousins that grow large and are very meaty.