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.
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.
Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat may increase the risk of foodborne illness.
The foregoing is excerpted from Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street,