Recipe: Fried Calamari and Whitebait with Crispy Chickpeas and Lemon

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Photo Courtesy of Little, Brown


This recipe comes from How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking (Little, Brown) by Michael Psilakis.

This is the Greek take on fritto misto, and you can add all kinds of things--vegetables, meat, poultry--here as long as they are cut in pieces small enough to cook at about the same time. I prefer you use really, really fresh calamari (squid) here. However, if you use frozen calamari, make sure you take the calamari out of the frozen juices as soon as it is thawed and use it the same day.

Everyone is familiar with fried calamari, that Italian staple most often served with a heavy tomato sauce. In the Greek kitchen, we prefer to complement fried fish with a tart, acidic sauce to keep the palate alive and kicking.

Serves 6 to 8 as a meze

    • 1 pound calamari (squid) cleaned, heads separated from the bodies
    • 12 small oil-packed Greek sardines or white anchovies, fresh whitebait, or fresh smelt
    • About 2 cups milk
    • Canola, safflower, or blended oil, for deep-frying
    • All-purpose flour
    • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
    • 1 cup drained Chickpea Confit (page 266) or canned chickpeas, well rinsed and drained
    • 2 shallots, cut into 1/4-inch rings
    • 1 lemon, sliced paper-thin
    • 1/3 cup small, picked sprigs parsley
    • 1/3 cup small, picked sprigs dill
    • 10 leaves fresh basil or mint
    • Tsatziki (page 189), for serving (or just serve with lemon wedges)

Cut the bodies of the calamari into 1/2-inch rings; leave the heads whole. Soak the calamari and the small fish of your choice in just enough milk to cover for 20 minutes.

In a large, heavy pot no more than half filled with oil, or a deep fryer, heat the oil to 350°F. Meanwhile, spread about 2 cups of flour in a large, shallow bowl. Drain the calamari and the fish and season them liberally with kosher salt and pepper. Season the Chickpea Confit, shallots, and lemon slices as well.

Throw the calamari, little fish, Chickpea Confit, shallots, and lemon slices into the bowl of flour, and toss well with your hands until evenly coated.

Transfer everything to a colander or sieve and shake to get rid of the excess flour. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Just before everything is done, throw the fresh herbs into the fryer for about 10 seconds.

Lift all ingredients out of the oil and drain briefly on absorbent paper. Season with salt and pepper. Immediately turn out onto a large, warm platter. Serve with Tsatziki for dipping and wedges of lemon.

* Add a couple of sliced pepperoncini to the frying list.

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