I was in a coffee shop not long ago and overheard a conversation between two men. One was saying how proud he was of his seven year old son who loves eating the calamari rings from his local pizza shop. The other guy said "wow, that's terrific that he enjoys eating calamari at such a young age." I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's great. Your son enjoys eating deep fried rubber bands. Congratulations, pal."
I think it's wonderful that a youngster would enjoy calamari. I've been eating it since I was probably around the age of four. However, I was not eating those cute little bite-size portions that have become a standard on most menus. No sir. What I was introduced to has become, to this day, one of my all-time favorite dishes which is served at my all-time favorite meal. I'm talking about Stuffed Calamari. And in just a few short weeks, I will once again be able to enjoy this delectable dish.
Every Christmas Eve, we gather together with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandmother to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Since more of us are contributing to the dinner these days, we're probably up to about 11 or 12 fishes. New dishes, such as coconut shrimp, talapia and king crab legs appear every year. But we still carry quite a few of the traditional dishes as well (smelts, whiting, bacala, and of course stuffed calamari). Now, if you never had stuffed calamari, it's quite different from the standard fried ringlets. It's the entire calamari tube, probably about the size of an manicotti tube, filled with a bread stuffing, and served in a red sauce. Think stuffed shells, but much more complex in taste and texture.
I have nothing against fried calamari, as long as it's properly prepared. In fact, it's a dish that my wife and I enjoy tremendously. Most of our favorite restaurants are ranked on the tenderness and tastiness of their fried calamari alone! But there is not a dish in the world that I would trade for my holiday stuffed calamari.
While I do not have my family's exact recipe (as my Aunt Marie is not yet willing to give up the calamri duties), below is a recipe that I found online a few years back that is very close, and is quite delicious. And if you're ever in the area of Collingswood, NJ, pay a visit to Nunzio's and enjoy an order of their Calamari Dorati.
• 2 pounds of calamari tubes (cleaned)
• 2 cans of crushed tomatoes (28 oz. Cans)
• 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
• 1 teaspoon of sugar
• 1 can (28 oz.) of water (use the crushed tomatoes can to measure)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 pound of grated cheese of your choice
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 2 teaspoons of accent
• 1/2 loaf of bread
• 2 teaspoons parsley
• 1/4 cup of grated cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Oil (enough to moisten mixture)
• 1 clove of fresh garlic
• 1 egg
• Clams, lobster, shrimp or fish of your choice chopped can be added to the stuffing
In a large pot, sauté garlic in heated oil. Add crushed tomatoes and season these tomatoes with all the other ingredients (excluding the stuffing ingredients). Add water a little at a time till the sauce thickens to your liking. Wash calamari tubes thoroughly and drain well. Take the stuffing ingredients and mix well until it is of a nice consistency. Stuff each tube halfway full. Use toothpicks at the opening of each filled tube. Add these tubes to the tomato sauce and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.