I’m just starting to warm up to calamari. Yes, I know I’m a little late to the party, and I should love it like most everyone else does. But it has been hard for me to love.
I remember trying it for the first time back in the 1980s when it first started to hit restaurant menus where I was living. People were raving. Me, not so much. It was almost always deep-fried at that time (I have absolutely nothing against deep-fried food. I love fried chicken as much as or possibly more than the next person). But this fried dish seemed different.
First, I wasn’t a fan of the chewy consistency. It had the same mouth feel experience as a HoJo’s clam strip. Now I completely get a 2 a.m. clam strip run. I’ve had my share at that time of night and never complained. They were always perfectly satisfying.
The fried calamari of that time was a different experience than Howard Johnson's clam strips. It was usually a dinner menu item. More often than not it was served at a very upscale Italian restaurant. And it always carried a very upscale price tag. It was mainly served in appetizer portions rather than as a main course. People raved. I, frankly, didn’t get the appeal.
There was about a 20 year period where I wouldn’t/didn’t eat it. Fast forward to today. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I’m a calamari convert! Deep-fried still is not my personal prep preference, but I’m loving the pan sauteed version.
In the popular Southside Village neighborhood of Sarasota sits Knick’s Tavern and Grill. It’s been there since 2002. It seems like everybody in town has been there at least once in their life. Started by Knick Barger and his daughter, Knickole, Knick’s is one of the anchors of this area that has recently grown in culinary stature.
Knick’s is a cozy place. They call it the “Cheers” of Sarasota. I’m certainly not going to disagree with that claim. Their staff goes out of their way to make you feel like one of the family.
Knick’s isn’t your ordinary “tavern and grill.” After all, they take dinner reservations! What other “tavern and grill” does that?! The food isn’t ordinary either. It perfectly matches the atmosphere; comfortable. There are some surprising entrée choices. I’ll just say that the menu has duck on it and let you figure it out from there.
One of the other dishes that Knick’s is proud of is their calamari. OK, spoiler alert, it’s not deep-fried! We’re talking a more elevated preparation here. Blackened Calamari Sauteed with Lemon Lime Beurre Blanc. This is about the farthest you can get from the calamari of the ‘80s!
So here we are, back in the kitchen once again. This time we're going to find out if you can make Knick’s calamari dish at home. Of course, we made you a little short film (you didn’t think we forgot about that did you?). Relax and enjoy it before we get the pans heated up.
Let's get cracking on this calamari recipe, shall we?
1 lb calamari, cleaned, bodies cut into ¾ inch thick rings, tentacles left whole
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter (½ stick)
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of ½ small lemon & ½ small lime, the remainder cut into wedges, for garnishing
METHOD: LEMON LIME BEURRE BLANC SAUCE
In a saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté two minutes. Add lemon and lime juice, wine, and cream. Let reduce by half. Turn heat to low.
Divide butter into squares. Whisk into the sauce a couple cubes at a time until all butter is melted through. Reserve sauce in a cool room temperature area. (This can be plated now, if you like).
METHOD: BLACKENED CALAMARI
Pat calamari dry with a paper towel. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat until smoking. Carefully add calamari in a single layer. Stir to coat with oil. Lightly season with your favorite dry blackening seasoning. Cook, tossing frequently, until squid is opaque and cooked through, about one to two minutes (do not overcook).
Serve on a large platter, over the beurre blanc sauce. Place warm toasted garlic bread around the plate. Add fresh parsley and citrus wedges for garnish and color. Enjoy!
All right, how did we do? Let’s have a peek, shall we…
Of course, we stopped by Knick’s to have a taste of the real thing. Here’s how theirs turned out:
Here are some tasting, cooking, and plating notes for you.
Right on the money!! I really nailed this one.
Here’s the obvious: they plated with garlic bread, which it did mention in the original recipe. I went with the lemon/lime wedges, which it also mentioned.
My sauce was identical to Knick’s. The sauce recipe is perfect. Also, the calamari cooking time was right on.
I used way too much sauce. But can you really have too much butter and cream sauce on your plate??
Last, a minor thing. My parsley wasn’t chopped fine enough. It wasn’t a problem with the overall taste though. More of an appearance issue.
THE VERDICT: YES! YOU CAN CERTAINLY MAKE THIS AT HOME, AND IT WON’T DISAPPOINT.
A note (and a request) - If you own, or are a chef at, a Sarasota restaurant and would like to have your recipe featured in a future edition of Make it at Home, please get in touch with us through our Facebook page or our dineSarasota.com website. We want to cook your dish!!
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Next month we will be making a real classic Sarasota dish. We’re keeping our fingers crossed it goes as well as this month’s recipe.
Here are some link’s we think you’ll find interesting
SARASOTA FOOD EVENTS CALENDAR
We’ve done all of the heavy lifting for you! All you need to do is make that reservation. Here are some upcoming local food events that we think you might find interesting…
DEC 18 - Brunch with Santa – The Reserve Retreat - INFORMATION
DEC 24 – Feast of the Seven Fishes – All Mattison’s restaurants - INFORMATION
DEC 24 – Christmas Eve Prix Fixe Dinner – Duval’s - INFORMATION
DEC 31 - New Year’s Eve Candlelight Dinner – Ortygia Restaurant - INFORMATION
DEC 31 – NYE’s Beach Bash – Sharky’s on the Pier - RESERVATIONS
DEC 31 – New Year’s Eve Celebration - Mademoiselle Paris - RESERVATIONS
DEC 31 – New Year’s Eve Celebration – Melange - INFORMATION
DEC 31 – New Year’s Eve Celebration – Pier 22 - INFORMATION
JAN 15 - 3rd Annual Sarasota Beer & Burger Festival - TICKETS
LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET INFORMATION
EVERY SATURDAY – Sarasota Farmers Market (Lemon & Main – Downtown Sarasota)
EVERY WEDNESDAY – The Phillippi Farmhouse Market (S. Tamiami Trl.)
EVERY SUNDAY - Siesta Key Farmers Market (Davidson’s Plaza, Siesta Village)