If you are looking for a spicy dish to serve as "finger food" at your next party, Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook has just the dish for you. On page 98, the cookbook presents a Spicy Fried Calamari with Lemon Aioli Sauce. The spicy flavor comes from the tablespoon of cayenne pepper used in the recipe.
Calamari is actually a corruption of an Italian word, calamaro, which means squid. In America, the word was adopted to indicate dishes made from squid. Peggy T. Filippone at About.com states that the squid is a cousin of the mollusk family and has evolutionary links to the octopus and the cuttlefish. Like the octopus, the squid releases a dark inky substance when feeling threatened. Surprisingly, this ink is edible and can be used in cooking calamari dishes.
Wikipedia.com identifies calamari as being of Mediterranean origins and is usually served as a fried appetizer. Common sauces include peppercorn mayonnaise, tzatziki or marinara sauce. Ralph Brennan's offering is served with a side of lemon aioli sauce. Unlike traditional aioli sauces which are made from olive oil, this sauce is made from canola oil and has an added dash of Dijon mustard.
In August 2006, Chowhound.com had a short debate about the name calamari vs. squid. Among the responses, Peter Cherches on August 8, 2006, quoted from a 1996 New York Times article touching on how squid entered the culinary scene, tentatively dating its popular entree to around the early to mid 1980s:
"Once only caught for bait, squid, a mollusk that has long been popular on Mediterranean, Asian and southern European menus, was little more than an overabundant throwaway for Long Island fishermen. . . Even up to 15 years ago squid fetched fishermen barely 10 cents a pound. Today the price is more that $1 a pound, and squid, or calamari, as it is increasingly being called, has become fancy fare at gourmet restaurants and seafood markets."Qualityseafoodmarket.com states that squid imports have increased by 30,000 tons a year since 1990 with California waters producing up to 50,000 tons annually though El Niño has affected that total.
SOURCE: "What is Calamari?"
SOURCE: "Squid (food)" 04/14/08
SOURCE: "Peter Cherches" 08/08/06
SOURCE: "Squid (AKA Calamari)"2005
Photo by Kerri McCaffety. Copyright by The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.