I love nothing more than to head out into either Port Phillip or Western Port in search of calamari.
While they aren’t much of a sports fish, they certainly tick all the boxes when it comes to a culinary delight. Crispy fried, Panko crumbed tasty little morsels that I just can’t resist. but like all of the prized and most delicious seafoods, they can be painful to clean.
After a long day on the water with a nice catch of calamari, cleaning them can be quite time consuming when doing by hand. Pulling heads and internals off and attempting to remove the slippery skin only to break the ink sac and getting your hands all covered in thick black ink isn’t really that appealing, but it’s a task that just has to be done.
It wasn’t until a trip to South Australia a few years ago that I learnt a cheeky little technique that takes the ‘hard’ and ‘time consuming’ factor out of cleaning a bag of calamari.
After catching your calamari, simply purchase or make a calamari cleaning bag as I have and follow these simple steps to cleaner calamari.
The following cleaning steps can make your bag of 10 calamari clean in just 5 minutes rather than an hour or so.
To make the cleaning bag, purchase a Jarvis Walker scaler bag, a Jarvis Walker keeper bag, a length of rope, a foam ball, a 30cm length of 400lb leader and an aluminium crimp.
Take the keeper bag and place it into the scaler bag. Take the float, leader and crimp and attach the ball to the end of the bags, crimping the leader onto the bottom end of the bags tightly securing it to the bags.
The reason for using both bags is that a scaler bag on its own will be to rough during the cleaning process and tear the calamari’s flesh apart. The keeper bag has a softer mesh which keeps it in good condition.
The length of rope can be attached to the top of the bag when cleaning the calamari.
After the bag is made and you have your catch of calamari, you can begin to complete the cleaning process.
Once you’ve caught your calamari, pop them into the bag you’ve made tie the rope to the end of the scaler bag and make sure it is secure.
While driving back to the ramp or to another location, tie the other end of the rope to a bollard and throw the bag (containing the calamari) into the water. The length of rope should be determined by having the scaler bag washing around in the crest of the prop wash.
Make sure that the bag be tied off to the side of the boat away from the prop and motor so that it doesn’t become caught in the prop, which can be very dangerous.
Drive the boat for 5-10 minutes letting the bag wash around. If the bag comes lose and detaches from the rope or boat, the float will keep it on the surface so you can go back and pick it up.
Once you are satisfied that the calamari are cleaned, pull the bag into the boat and remove the calamari from the bags.
You should now have perfectly skinned and cleaned calamari including the wings, which are normally discarded ready to be cut into rings and eaten. On occasion you might have to pick a few pieces of excess skin or internals from the hood or wings but not to the extent you would if this process wasn’t done.
This process is very simple and only takes a few minutes to do. If you’re anything like me and hate the time it takes to clean calamari, then try this technique and you’ll never look back.
Here is my very simple recipe which only takes minutes but makes awesome tasting and tender calamari rings.
2 large zip lock sandwich bags
10 calamari cut into rings
500ml of light olive oil
1 cup of plain flour
1 packet of Fog Dog Panko bread crumbs*
Take eggs and break into mixing bowl discarding the shells.
Mix eggs together with a fork until the eggs are orange in colour.
Take flour and place into one of the zip lock bags.
Place calamari rings into the bag containing the flour and seal the bag.
Shake the bag covering the calamari rings in flour.
Remove the calamari rings from the flour bag and place into the egg mixture a few at a time making sure they are completely covered in the egg.
Take half the packet of Panko and tip into the other zip lock bag.
Place the calamari a few at a time into the zip lock bag containing the Panko crumbs. Once all the calamari is in the bag, seal and shake.
Shake again until all of the calamari rings are coved in crumbs.
Heat oil on high until spitting.
Remove the calamari rings from the Panko a few at a time and place into the hot oil. I suggest cooking 10 to 15 rings at a time depending on the size of the fry pan.
Cook the rings on one side for 30 seconds to a minute or until golden brown. Continually check so not to burn. Continue to do this until all of the calamari are cooked.
Place all of the calamari from the oil onto a sheet of paper towel to drain the excess oil from the cooked crumbs.
Place onto a plate, add some tartare sauce and enjoy.