Frying at home can be a terrifying prospect. There will be oil! Hot oil! And splatters! And potential injury/death! OK, or, you could do it properly and discover that it's actually totally manageable, not scary, and really fun.
While this recipe is specifically for seafood, there will be some all-purpose frying/life lessons to be learned, so read on.
Here's what you'll need:
1. You can find fresh squid at any fish market and most Whole Foods. Sometimes they'll ask you "Tentacles or bodies? Or both?" You want both.
2. If you've got some of the tentacles of the squid, they have one inexplicably long tentacle. Cut this one off. It doesn't taste bad or anything, it's just freakishly long and makes it hard to fry consistently.
3. And if you've got some of the bodies, slice them into ¾-inch thick rings.
4. When buying shrimp, get the medium ones. You can buy them peeled and deveined (fresh or frozen).
5. If you're buying shrimp that is NOT peeled or deveined, start by peeling the shell off. Best to grab the teeny legs and just peel back the shell. Leave the tail on; it makes for easier frying.
6. To devein, make an incision about ⅛ inch deep along the back of the shrimp. Using the tip of the knife, remove the black line of...stuff inside.
This stuff will not kill you, and you probably won't even taste it, but let's just say you should get rid of it.
7. Any good Fritto Misto contains *fried lemons* which are a tangy, crispy DELIGHT and I can not recommend them more. Start by slicing the lemons about ⅛ inch thick, and removing all the seeds.
Think of them as a sort of palate cleanser among all that fried stuff. Even though they are also fried. Whatever.
8. Slice the onions into rings ¼ inch thick. Just like you're making onion rings.
9. Now make the batter. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
10. Whisk in your soda water...
11. ...Until it looks like this. It should be the consistency of thin pancake batter. A few lumps are cool, just make sure any obvious large chunks of flour are gone.
OK, now you're ~READY TO FRY~.
Here's the thing. Don't try to fry everything at once. This is the kind of activity where you will fry a few things, bring a plate out to your guests,* eat what's on the plate, and return to the kitchen to fry some more things. It's a really active cooking experience, but that's kind of the deal. You can't rush, crowd, or hurry this up. But it's worth it.
12. When picking a pot to fry in, choose something that has high sides, but is wide enough where you can fry more than one piece at a time.
13. Heat the oil over medium–high heat. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pot and wait till it gets to 350°.
14. For the larger items, like shrimp, lemon, and onion rings, dip them into the batter, letting the excess fall into the bowl.
Remember, this is not a thick batter. It should be pretty runny so you get just a thin coating on each thing.
15. Once you drop something into the batter, it should start frying and bubbling immediately. (This is why you have a pot with high sides.) Just do a few pieces at a time, so the temperature of the oil doesn't drop.
16. Once the things turn a light golden brown (this batter is very delicate and will never get "fried-chicken brown," but it should still be GBD — golden brown delicious), remove with a slotted spoon.
17. Transfer things to that paper towel-lined plate while you fry a few more things.
18. For the tinier things like the cut squid, place them in a smaller bowl and add enough batter to coat everything evenly.
19. Then drop the squid in, a few at at time, and fry until they too are golden brown delicious.
To help them *not* stick together, move them around a little bit while they're in the oil to encourage them to be freeeeeeee.
20. Once everything is out of the oil, season with salt.
21. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley to ~keep it classy~.
22. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over and MAYO for dipping.
Click HERE for a full Feast of the Seven Fishes menu.
By Alison Roman
For the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1 (12 oz) can club soda
4 cups vegetable oil
1 lb. squid, bodies sliced into ½-inch thick rings, tentacles trimmed
1 red onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 lemon, very thinly sliced, ⅛-inch thick and seeded
1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup chopped parsley
1 cup mayonnaise (optional)
For the batter:
Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the club soda (doing this slowly prevents lumps, which should be minimal) until it's just blended.
Don't over-whisk or the coating will be heavy and dense. (The horror!) The batter should look like really loose pancake batter. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the frying:
When you're ready to fry, heat the vegetable oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot to monitor the oil temperature, and bring the oil up to 350°.
Working with one item at a time, dip each item into the batter and let any excess batter drip back down into the bowl. Carefully drop it into the oil and fry until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. (The timing will depend on what you're frying and how much you're frying — be sure not to crowd the pot, only do a little at a time.)
Using a slotted spoon, remove the stuff from the pot and let it drain on paper towels or newspapers if you're feeling real old-timey about it and season immediately with salt.
Sprinkle parsley over the fritto misto and serve with mayonnaise alongside for dipping. I'm pretty sure that's not traditional, but it is delicious, so it's your call.