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Calamari with Pickled Peppers

Discover this must-try calamari appetizer, where tender squid is fried to a golden brown perfection. The calamari is bathed in smoky paprika-spiced buttermilk, coated in sumac-seasoned cornstarch, and served over a satiny almond romesco sauce. A scattering of pickled sweet pepper rings adds a vibrant touch, balancing the dish's sweet and smoky elements.

Ingredients

Almond Romesco

  • 4 jarred roasted piquillo peppers (from 1 [12-ounce] jar)
  • 1 whole peeledSan Marzano plum tomato (from 1 [14-ounce] can)
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

Mashed Potato Topping

  • Neutral cooking oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Caribbean jerk seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups cornstarch (about 9 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/8 ounces)
  • 1 pound cleaned squid (tubes and tentacles), tubes cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings and tentacles left whole (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (16-ounce) jarpickled sliced sweet peppers, drained, or Pickled Snack Peppers (see Note)
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Directions

Almond Romesco

  1. Process piquillo peppers, tomato, almonds, and vinegar in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove center piece of blender lid. With blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil, processing until mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 45 seconds. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Calamari

  1. Pour cooking oil into a Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high to 350°F. While oil heats, whisk together paprika, Montreal steak seasoning, Caribbean jerk seasoning, and sumac in a small bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, egg, and 1 tablespoon spice mixture in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together cornstarch, flour, and 2 tablespoons spice mixture. Set remaining spice mixture aside.
  2. Working in 2 batches, toss squid in buttermilk mixture until well coated. Shake off excess buttermilk mixture, and transfer to cornstarch mixture; toss until all pieces are well coated and separated. Shake off excess cornstarch mixture, and transfer to hot oil using a slotted spoon or spider. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 30 second per batch. Transfer to a large paper towel–lined bowl. Toss calamari with remaining 1 tablespoon spice mixture.
  3. Spread almond romesco evenly on a platter. Top evenly with calamari and drained pickled peppers. Garnish with chives, and serve.