Calamares Romano

The first time I had this tapa was on a 1958 European tour in Barcelona. My friend George Hoover and I were seated at a table of one of the numerous sidewalk cafés ringing the Plaza Real. A warm Sunday morning spent in several plazas watching soft-shoe clad Catalonians dance life-affirming sardanas and a hot afternoon at the corrida watching toros and torreros execute the dance of death had provided us an exquisite thirst. After what seemed an endless wait, a waiter finally arrived.

"¿Señores?" We both ordered Estrella Dorada, a Spanish beer. The mojo asked if we’d like calamares to go with it. Neither of us knew what calamares were, but we were also hungry so we said sure!

He returned a short while later with our cervezas and a heaping platter of what appeared to be batter-fried onion rings. I'll never forget my surprise when I sampled one. When I bit through the light, crusty batter a sudden rush of warm sea air swept through my mouth. The center was pearly white, tender yet chewy. It was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.

Like the paëlla we had for lunch or dinner every day the remainder of our stay, each afternoon George and I had platter after platter of fried squid. We did give up the Estrella Dorada though. Our waiter turned us on to something much better, and which cost much less. It was what the 6th Fleet had dubbed a "torpedo" -- a liter-and-a-half pitcher of draught!

N.B. If dissecting frogs in biology class made you squeamish, you'd best buy squid already cleaned. Frozen squid tubes are available at most supermarkets.

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½lb small squid        1 cup flour + some for dredging        2tsp baking powder        ½tsp salt

2T oil        1 cup beer       oil for frying

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Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil and beer. Whisk to form a smooth, thin batter. Let sit for 30 min.

Slice the squid into ½in rings. Dry well, and dredge in flour. Dip rings in the batter. Drop a few at a time into a heavy skillet ½ full of 350° oil. Cook 2-3 minutes, just until golden. Do not overcook or they will toughen. Drain well on paper towels. Serve hot.

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