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Fried calamari faster and easier than you'd think

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Fried calamari is one of those dishes most people tend to reserve for restaurant dining. But fantastic fried squid is ridiculously easy to make at home and can be on the table in about 20 minutes.

The toughest part? Getting good squid. If possible, get it fresh. This usually means it will come partly intact (the tentacles may be separated, but the long, cigar-shaped bodies will be whole).

Buy the smallest squid you can find; large squid can be tough. To prepare the bodies, remove and discard the long, thin bone from inside, then use a knife to cut the body crosswise into thin rings.

If the tentacles are particularly large, they can be cut into chunks. Otherwise, they can be cooked whole.

If you buy frozen squid, it usually will be cut into rings already. Buy packages with small rings, then thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. Alternatively, place the frozen rings in a colander and thaw under cool running water.

Squid cooks very quickly - no more than 2 to 3 minutes - and will become tough if left in the oil too long.

For a dipping sauce, keep it simple by spiking purchased condiments. In this recipe, mayonnaise gets a dose of Sriracha hot sauce. For a warm version, swap tomato sauce for the mayo and heat it briefly.

Fried Calamari

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) mayonnaise

15 ml (1 tbsp) Sriracha sauce

125 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

1 ml ( 1/4 tsp) ground black pepper

5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder

5 ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika

2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) chili powder

1 egg

250 ml (1 cup) water

750 g (1 1/2 lb) calamari rings and tentacles, thawed if frozen

Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and chili powder; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Pour mixture into dry ingredients and whisk just until smooth.

If any of the tentacles are larger than bite-size, cut them into smaller pieces. Add calamari to batter and gently toss until all pieces are well coated.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high, heat about 5 cm (2 inches) of oil to 185 C (365 F).

Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, use a fork, chopstick or tongs to lift pieces of calamari from batter and set into oil. Fry for about 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Serve calamari immediately, accompanied by the dipping sauce.

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