Calamari, or fresh squid, is so neutral in taste that it’s the perfect vehicle for a flavor road trip. This trip we’re headed to California with Meyer lemon confit and one of my favorite new ingredients, smoked olive oil. Made from olives that are cold-smoked before they are crushed, it’s one of the sexiest flavors I’ve come across in years. Genius. You can pick some up at thesmokedolive.com.
Rinse and dry the calamari very well and place in a resealable plastic bag. Add the smoked olive oil, turn to coat, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to overnight.
Make a very hot charcoal fire or preheat your gas grill to high. Drain the calamari, discarding the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Season with sea salt and pepper. Fold a double thickness of paper towels in quarters and use them to wipe the grill grates with oil; this will prevent the food from sticking. Place the calamari on the grill and cook for just 1½ minutes per side or until it has a bit of char; don’t overcook or the calamari will become rubbery. Let rest for 1 minute, then separate the tubes and tentacles, slicing the tubes into ½-inch rings.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the bread crumbs with the tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Spread the bread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
To serve, thread the sliced tube pieces onto large dinner forks, and top each with a tentacle. Top each portion with a little lemon confit, some toasted bread crumbs, a few grains of sea salt, and a bit of black pepper. Garnish with the fennel fronds or chervil.
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