It’s that time. Temperatures are cooling. Leaves are starting to change. The days are getting a little shorter and the kids are back in school. Yep, football season is upon us and it’s time to start cooking some squid. No, really. There’s no time better than while watching a football game to chow down on a big plate of snacks, but people are looking for healthier options these days and squid is a great choice for that. Squid is not as greasy as chicken wings, lower in calories than shrimp, and higher in protein and vitamin B12 while being naturally low in fat. Not to mention an economical menu addition, it’s hard to find a better health-conscious protein choice for snacking.
A Cleaner Calamari
Frying calamari rings is one of the obvious and most popular choices for serving—you just don’t want to overshadow the health benefits in the process. Our Roma fresh calamari
arrives chef-ready with impressive taste and tenderness, so you want to be careful to showcase the flavor, not overpower it. Avoid heavy batters or breading, a simple dusting is all that is needed. Flour works, but corn starch, rice or tapioca flour work even better for a lighter, crispier result. Mixing the different flours will allow you to produce the fried ring that suits you best. Don’t forget to season your dredging mixture, adding some salt and a pinch or two of cayenne will add both color and flavor.
Selecting the right oil for frying is also key. You need something that can reach a high enough temperature to produce a crispy, less greasy result as well as one that doesn’t affect the flavor of the squid too extremely. Peanut oil is a popular choice, because of its neutral flavor and high smoke point. It is, however, high in polyunsaturated fats, something that’s exacerbated when frying at higher temperatures, so it may not be the healthiest option. Palm oil makes for a good alternative to peanut oil, lacking the polyunsaturated fats, but some have raised environmental concerns about the impact of palm oil production. Try coconut oil. It has little impact on the flavor of the fried foods with a high enough smoke point to fry to crispy perfection. Plus, coconut oil is much touted in the news of late for its health benefits, making it a very trendy option. Don’t forget to note it on the menu as a selling point.
Finally, you need a dipping sauce. It would be a shame to create a relatively healthy fried dish and then douse it with a super caloric fatty sauce. Fortunately, there are lots of low fat sour cream and yogurt options these days. Create a cream and spicy sauce with cayenne, or make your own low fat ranch-style dipping sauce. Of course, a simple marinara is perfect for those watching what they eat.
Forget the Fryer
There are, however, options other than frying to really make an impression with squid. Score Roma calamari tubes
to get those universally recognizable hash marks, then finish cooking through with indirect heat to keep the texture tender. Marinating the squid in sauces like a soy sauce and ginger works well since squid is accepting of additional flavors. You can also simply brush the squid as it cooks with a vinegar-based BBQ sauce for color and a punch of flavor.
Squid is also a perfect ingredient for ceviche. Blanch Roma fresh squid rings
in boiling water and immediately move to an ice bath. Chop purple onion and slice radishes then toss the squid and mango cubes with lime and grapefruit juice. Add some spice, perhaps a curry or chili paste, and allow the mixture to marinate for a few hours. Serve this tangy ceviche in half of a creamy avocado for maximum visual effect.
Of course, football isn’t the only exciting thing about fall. There’s also Halloween and squid is the perfect ingredient for making a creepy looking dish. Just picture black squid ink pasta tossed with squid tentacles sautéed in garlic and a dash of chili paste for heat. Maybe add a pinch of turmeric to the squid to add color for a seasonally stunning visual.
Fried, grilled or tossed into a colorful salad, squid is versatile and affordable while lending itself perfectly to platter size dishes to share with family and friends. Not to mention, with a little imagination, it’s better tasting and better for your customers during half time than that old plate of fried mozzarella sticks.