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Jan 9, 2009 09:23 AM

Calamari meatballs revisited

I'll try this one again. After getting deleted a couple times, I finally read the guidelines that say no shilling for a website. The link was to a personal blog not a commercial site so I figured it was okay. Guess not. There are pics on the site so you can check it if you like, it's in the sig.

This is a continuation of a discussion I read that was posted here a couple years ago.

It's been what, six months since I tasted the goodness of the calamari meatballs at The Daily Catch. Since then it has been a personal mission to figure out just how they do it. When I was there last July, I asked the kind waitress what was in them. She said, "just calamari." I was guessing there might be ground veal in there too but she insisted it was just calamari and herbs and spices.

Okay, let's run with that. A few months ago I bought some whole calamari and made an attempt. At the time I didn't have a grinder so I substituted a food processor. Bad idea. The processor rendered the squid a gooey mess. Instead of acquiesing, I forded ahead. After adding some herbs and spices, egg whites, and too much bread crumbs, I did my best to form a ball out of the gloppy stuff, dropped it in a pot of boiling water and ended up with a strangely shaped blob of boiled squid. It resembled nothing I had seen before(click for a pic of the real thing).

Fast forward to yesterday.

Picked up five pounds of whole squid (beaks removed) at the only real Italian market in Miami, Laurenzos. I am now on an OCD mission. I will not be denied. Before I got started, I tried to find some fine Italian opera music. Puccini would be inspirational. Couldn't find it so just ran with the classical selection on XM or whatever is piped in through the cable. With the coarse blade installed, I ran it through the KitchenAid grinder and voila. I got ground calamari.

Great. Now where do I go from here? Let's add the appropriate meatball stuff. Some herbs, some spices, egg whites, some Laurenzos Own italian bread crumbs, some minced onion. The typical stuff. Just like the waitress said, "whatever you put in meatballs goes in, just use ground calamari instead of meat." Only now I am armed with a little more intel than what I had the first time. I was tipped off that after forming the balls, they are dropped into a fryer. Okay, makes sense. Maybe. I'll try that.

So now it's time to fire up the fryer. Despite beginning the project full of optimism, skepticism is now creeping in.'s not creeping in, it's done moved right in and brought along the wife and kids! The mixture still resembles an amoeba. With serious doubt peering over my shoulder, I drop a few into the hot oil.

The oil does what it does when cold, wet food hits hot fat, it begins that violent, furious dance trying to rid itself of the invader that it hates so much, water.

And therein lies the problem. This mixture was simply way too moist for the fryer. The vaporizing water created such commotion that it literally tore apart what only loosely resembled a meatball. I'm not even sure these things would qualify as fritters.

So here's what I do in an attempt at salvage. I take the goop that's left, toss it in a loaf pan and into the oven at 350-400. When it's done, I'm left with a chunk of calamari meatloaf that has lost about a third of it's size, perhaps a little more. Glad I tried that. I now know that the squid must somehow be dried prior to mixing the ingredients for the meatballs.

Back to the drawing board? Not really. Just need to tweak a portion of the procedure. And I'll be back.

UPDATE: After thinking about this and looking at the pic of the original, I'm not really convinced that the real thing is deep fried. The outer skin texture just doesn't look like it has been submerged in hot oil.

Pics can be seen on my blog I hope that's not breaking the rules. If so, please let me know and I'll edit straightaway.

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  1. Years ago I remember the LIME HOUSE on Mott St ,NYC sold both shrimp balls and squid balls both fried, maybe the fish was pre cooked as from the leftover steam dishes which was served with tomato sauce and hardtack biscuts.Maybe

    1. They do not look like they've been fried. I would try your typical meatball mix again - but use the whole egg, not just whites, and fresh bread crumbs. Aim for a ball that is dry enough to stay round, then put them on a plate and chill for an hour. Add the chilled balls to gently simmering tomato sauce, cover, and don't touch them for at least 20 minutes. When they look like the top is firm and just about cooked, gently turn each ball over and cook for another 15-20 min. Take one out and cut it open to check firmness and doneness before turning off the heat.

      I think subbing ground squid in a crab cake or seafood croquette recipe would be good, too. Easier to saute in patties than to form conical croquettes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        AHA! I was just looking at the Boston you do mean the Daily Catch here - I thought you meant a place in FL. Okay, now I'm quite confident in my above suggestion. I've had those "meatballs", maybe 20 years back as part of an all-calamari platter, but do remember them.

      2. I've attempted these myself after enjoying the daily catch squid balls. I have had some success- first I precook squid in boiling water for about 1 minute. Then I cool in fridge- rinse again.. Then put through a meat grinder (kitchen aide accessory) - using eggs /breadcrumbs etc.. It "works" but missing something.. I revamped and used 2lbs squid/1lb veal/1lb sausage meat -(precooked meat too) then made mixture and was awesome ! I've been told to deep fry them too... But I bake them on a cookie sheet first at 350 for 20-25 min n broil for 2-3 min to brown tops... Then place meatballs in sauté pan with sauce and cook on low in sauce for 10-20 min- they freeze well too!! if you have any other tips you have discovered lmk as I'm obsessed with these meatballs! I will be attempting all squid again soon .!!!!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Taw2000

          Gosh darn it, now I am going to have to try that. But replacing the veal/sausage with mild brat meat due to where I live. Then spicy Italian.

          At least I get frozen calamari for cheap here. I once went into a store around the corner and saw a 5# box. I asked for it, the clerk went "you eat that?" And came out with ten boxes telling me "nobody buys it, I listed it as spoilage". Fortunately my freezer had room and a couple of neighbors who love it as well got boxes.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Thnx! Have u tried this recipe before??how did it turn out? Anchovies is interesting to add to mixture- I will keep it on file for next time:)

            1. re: Taw2000

              i haven't, but it's from a reputable chef and now i want to make them too!

              i do agree that using a whole egg would be better and think the pancetta here adds some fat to help hold everything together.

              sometimes when people say "fry", they pan a pan-saute, not the deep-fryer used by the op, so i think that was simply a miscommunication with the server.

          2. Hi folks,
            I used to cook at the original Daily Catch on Hanover Street. The key to calamari meatballs is that the calamari must be lightly poached and drained dry before chopping coarsely to make the balls. Grinding raw calamari with its high water content is a recipe for squid slush.
            Mix cooked, chopped calamari with lots of garlic, parsley, several pureed anchovies, lots of reggiano parmigiano and a handful of bread crumbs (I suggest panko.) Finely chop 1/4 lb mortadella and add with 1 egg per lb of squid. For a bolder flavor substitute pancetta, finely cubed and browned, for mortadella. Moisten mixture with olive oil, a slug of white wine and a generous ladle of marinara, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Do not add any milk!
            Wet your hands and roll into 1 and 2/3 inch balls and roll gently in a mixture of equal parts grated cheese and panko, set on a tray and refrigerate
            When ordered, I used to drop them in a fryer with olive oil for 3-4 minutes, place in a small dish, cover with marinara and serve with more cheese. Crispy, spicy... spectacular!
            To fry at home, use a skillet, some light olive oil and make sure they're crisped on all sides. This recipe does not lend itself to oven frying as the calamari will overcook in a flash.