Cumin-Fried Squid on Red-Chili Aioli with Pico De Gallo

This calamari, with the citrusy-cum-earthy flavor of cumin combined with the zing from the sauce, is not the standard fare. The wine pairing follows the medium intensity of the dish that goes with either red or white wines. The Duchman Family Winery Dolcetto provides medium body, red fruit, dry earth and soft , silky texture. In a different way, the McPherson Cellars Roussanne hits the rich, creamy sauce broadside with bright and refreshing lemony notes and a minerally cloaked below.

For the aioli:

3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup Texas extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup whipping cream

For the pico de gallo:

5 large Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch dice
½ small white onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 serrano chilies, seeds and veins removed, minced
2 heaping tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
Juice of 2 large limes
Salt, to taste

For the calamari:

2 pounds squid (tubes and tentacles), cleaned
6 cups all-purpose flour seasoned with 2 teaspoons each of cayenne, salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder and paprika
Egg wash made from 4 eggs whisked into 6 cups whole milk
6 cups panko bread crumbs, seasoned with 2 tablespoons ground cumin and 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Canola oil for deep-frying, heated to 350°F
Shredded romaine lettuce

In the work bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade, mince the garlic cloves. Scrape down the sides of work bowl and add the egg yolks, mustard, salt, cumin, cayenne and vinegar, and process until the mixture is thickened and smooth—about 2 minutes. Combine the canola and olive oils.

With the processor running, add the combined oils in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube to form a smooth aioli. After all of the oil has been added, process an additional 15 to 20 seconds. Add the whipping cream and process just to blend. Refrigerate until ready to use, but do not keep longer than 3 days.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, onion, chilies, cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl and blend well. Taste for salt and adjust, then refrigerate.

Remove the clear cartilage from the tubes of the squid (if the seafood market has not already removed them), then remove the “beaks” from the center of the tentacles. Slice the tubes into ½-inch rings then pat the rings and tentacles dry using paper towels. Toss the squid first in the seasoned flour—coating well and shaking off excess flour. Next, drop the pieces into the egg wash and coat well. Dredge the squid in the seasoned panko bread crumbs, coat well then shake off all excess crumbs. Fry the squid in batches in the preheated oil until golden brown—taking care not to crowd the oil. Drain each batch on a wire rack set over a baking sheet until all have been fried. To serve, spoon the red-chili aioli evenly onto a large platter. Place a nest of shredded lettuce in the center of the plate and top the lettuce with a portion of the pico de gallo. Scatter the fried squid around the plate and serve immediately


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TERRY THOMPSON-ANDERSON is a professional chef, cookbook author, culinary instructor and restaurant consultant. She has written five cookbooks and numerous articles for various publications. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, The Southern Foodways Alliance and Les Dames d’Escoffier, International.