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Calamares a la Romana: A Crispy Delight of Fried Calamari

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Calamares a la Romana, or Fried Calamari, is a beloved dish in Mediterranean cuisine, particularly popular in Spain and Italy. This appetizer or tapas dish features tender rings of calamari, delicately coated in a light and crispy batter, served with lemon wedges and often accompanied by aioli or marinara sauce for dipping. Let’s explore the origins, ingredients, and steps to prepare this classic seafood dish that promises to delight both seafood enthusiasts and casual diners alike.

Origins and Culinary Heritage

Calamares a la Romana traces its origins to Mediterranean coastal regions, where squid or calamari is plentiful and celebrated for its tender texture and mild flavor. The term “a la Romana” refers to the Roman style of preparation, involving breading and frying, which has been adopted and adapted across various culinary traditions. This dish has become a staple in Spanish tapas bars and Italian trattorias, offering a delightful appetizer that is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Ingredients for Calamares a la Romana

To prepare Calamares a la Romana, gather the following ingredients:

  • For the Calamari:
    • 500 g fresh squid or calamari tubes and tentacles, cleaned and cut into rings (about 1 cm thick)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For Breading:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • For Frying:
    • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For Serving:
    • Lemon wedges
    • Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • Accompaniments:
    • Aioli, marinara sauce, or tartar sauce for dipping

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation
  1. Prepare the Calamari: Rinse the squid or calamari under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove any remaining skin or membrane. Cut the tubes into rings, about 1 cm thick, and leave the tentacles whole if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Breading the Calamari
  1. Set Up Breading Station: Prepare two shallow bowls or plates. In the first bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Mix well. Place the beaten eggs in the second bowl.
  2. Coat the Calamari: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 180°C (350°F). While the oil is heating, dredge the calamari rings and tentacles in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip them into the beaten eggs, ensuring they are evenly coated, and then dredge them again in the flour mixture.
Step 3: Frying the Calamari
  1. Fry in Batches: Carefully place a few pieces of breaded calamari into the hot oil, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the fried calamari to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Repeat until all calamari are fried.
Step 4: Serving Calamares a la Romana
  1. Garnish and Serve: Arrange the fried calamari on a serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped fresh parsley, if desired, for added freshness and flavor.
  2. Accompaniments: Serve Calamares a la Romana hot, accompanied by aioli, marinara sauce, or tartar sauce for dipping. The tangy citrus from the lemon wedges complements the crispy texture of the calamari, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Culinary Tips and Variations

  • Variation in Seasonings: Add paprika, garlic powder, or dried herbs to the flour mixture for additional flavor.
  • Lighter Option: For a lighter version, you can bake the breaded calamari in a preheated oven at 220°C (425°F) for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crispy and golden brown.
  • Alternative Cooking Methods: Calamares a la Romana can also be cooked in an air fryer for a healthier alternative to deep frying, achieving a similar crispy texture with less oil.

Nutritional Benefits

Calamares a la Romana provides a delightful blend of protein and essential nutrients from the calamari, balanced with a light and crispy coating. While frying adds a satisfying crunch, alternative cooking methods like baking or air frying offer healthier options without sacrificing taste and texture. Pairing the dish with fresh lemon wedges and dipping sauces adds a burst of flavor and enhances the overall enjoyment.

Conclusion

Calamares a la Romana showcases the simplicity and deliciousness of Mediterranean cuisine, offering a crispy exterior that gives way to tender, flavorful calamari inside. Whether enjoyed as an appetizer, tapas dish, or part of a seafood feast, this classic recipe highlights the versatility and quality of squid or calamari. Embrace the flavors of Calamares a la Romana with this straightforward recipe and enjoy the delightful combination of textures and tastes that make it a beloved choice among seafood enthusiasts worldwide.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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