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Fried Calamari and Shrimp Cocktail

Author: Julie Wallace, Jalapenos & Anchovies

Ingredients

COCKTAIL SAUCE:

  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup chili sauce I used Heinz
  • 3 tbs horseradish or to taste (horseradish is subjective)
  • 1 tbs + a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (I used Texas Pete)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp silver tequila
  • Kosher salt to taste

SHRIMP:

  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A small handful of black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • Up to 1 lb large shrimp unpeeled

FRIED CALAMARI:

  • ½ lb. squid cleaned and cut into rings; halve tentacles if large
  • 1 cup buttermilk well shaken
  • Hot sauce to taste (I used Texas Pete)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ tsp Cajun seasoning plus more for sprinkling
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for frying

Instructions

COCKTAIL SAUCE:

  • Add all ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

SHRIMP:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Squeeze half the lemon juice into the pot, then add the squeezed lemon into the water. Add the bay leaves, black peppercorns, and a nice handful of salt (similar to what you’d do for pasta water). Add the shrimp. Once they’re cooked through, remove them with a spider or large slotted spoon. This doesn’t take long at all, don’t walk away. You could be looking at as short as ninety seconds, or up to three minutes. They’re done when they turn bright pink and are firm to the touch. Chill them in the fridge while you make the calamari. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.
  • You can absolutely serve these as peel-and-eat. I may or may not have married someone who greatly dislikes The Vein (I’m sympathetic), so while the oil for the calamari is heating, I go ahead and peel and devein them before serving. Either way is fine, just make sure they are chilled for maximum flavor.

FRIED CALAMARI:

  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the squid pieces to the buttermilk, along with a few dashes of hot sauce. How much hot sauce - if any! - is subjective. I add enough to turn the buttermilk pink, but you can add as little as you like; it’s also fine to skip if you’re not into it.
  • In another larger mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, plus kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Lift the squid pieces out of the buttermilk, shake them off a bit, and add them to the flour mixture. Toss or stir to fully coat the squid. You want to do this in batches, to ensure even coating. Leave the squid in the flour while you heat up the oil.
  • Pour the oil into a high-sided large skillet or Dutch oven about two inches up. You want the temperature between 350 and 375 F. When the oil is ready, drop the squid pieces into the oil. You’ll want to work in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry until the breading is golden brown and the oil is sizzling much more slowly around the squid. It takes two to three minutes. Lift them out with a spider or large slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Immediately sprinkle with more Cajun seasoning - you can be as stingy or as generous as you prefer here, but I would not skip this step. It adds amazing flavor.
  • To serve, transfer the cocktail sauce to a small ramekin, and surround it with the shrimp, the fried calamari, and the lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipe developed by Julie Wallace of Jalapenos & Anchovies. This is a favorite I’ve been making since before I really even knew how to cook. I did not grow up in much of a seafood family, weird given our demographics, but it's fine. My husband, on the other hand, grew up spending one week each summer consumed with fresh-picked crabs and shrimp dunked in melted garlic butter and homemade cocktail sauce. His cocktail sauce was bare bones - just ketchup, lemon juice, and horseradish. I started adding things to it gradually: chili sauce, then Worcestershire, then hot sauce, then the coup de grace: tequila. You’ll laugh at this, but I used to use Emeril’s Essence on my fried calamari. I know. Rest assured, I don’t hunt down overpriced spice blends featuring smiling celebrity chefs anymore; your average Cajun seasoning works perfectly. The flavor takes it, dare I say, up a notch? Sorry. I hope you enjoy this!