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.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound cleaned calamari
  • 1 cup smoked olive oil, or best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup Meyer Lemon Confit (opposite page)
  • 12 fresh fennel fronds or chervil sprigs, for garnish

Method

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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