Calamari is one of our favourite seafoods and we always have some in our freezer – caught locally, bought fresh and trimmed to our liking by Maggie. We have cooked calamari as the feature ingredient – salt and pepper style, marinated then grilled on the barbecue, or crumbed rings deep-fried. And we have combined it with other ingredients in meals of paella, pizza or pasta.
Each of these has been delicious and satisfying in its own way, but not one of them could be described as elegant or classy. That’s all changed now, thanks to a recipe by Patrizia Simone, for what she calls ‘deconstructed baked calamari’. Although we made some changes to the recipe, the ideas all came from Patrizia, so I will describe the method rather than codify it.
We began with a clean whole tube of calamari that we had bought from a very reliable fishmonger. The tube weighed a tad over 300g, which turned out to be enough to provide each of us with an evening meal and a light lunch.
Maggie cut the tube in half lengthways, tidied up the inner surfaces and lay one piece skin-side down on a cutting board. Using her trusty sharp, straight-bladed Toledo-steel knife, she cut pieces about 2cm wide, cutting on an angle then sliding the knife to separate each piece from the skin. (It is the skin shrinking when it comes into contact with heat that causes pieces of calamari to contort.)
When she was finished, we placed the pieces of calamari in the fridge while we completed the preparations. We melted about 50g of butter in a small saucepan and added 3 cloves of garlic, prepared on the amazing grater our friend Janet gave Maggie for Christmas. After a couple of minutes, we added about half a cup of fresh breadcrumbs, 40ml of chopped herbs – parsley, chives and marjoram – picked fresh from the garden, stirred briefly and removed the pan from the heat. Then we seasoned the herb mix generously with salt, black pepper and a little cayenne pepper.
While the oven came to 180C, Maggie lined a roasting pan with baking paper, placed the pieces of calamari on the paper, sprinkled the herb mix over the top, placed quarters of our home-grown cherry tomatoes around the perimeter and then a drizzle of olive oil over the top of everything.
Patrizia’s recipe indicated that we should bake the calamari for 5 minutes at 200C. That’s fine if you have a commercial oven but we never try to get ours cranked up to 200C and we have to allow for the fact that the oven temperature will drop initially as the pan and its contents warm through. So, we found that about 10 minutes was long enough to cook the calamari without making it too chewy.