At first glance, this recipe may seem a bit involved, but each step is utterly simple, making this dish suitable for a weeknight dinner or weekend lunch alike. Remember that timing is everything when it comes to squid, and overcooking it is the enemy: It can mean the difference between a perfectly textured dish or one that bears more resemblance to rubber bands than seafood.
What to buy: If you purchase whole, uncleaned calamari, 3 pounds yields about 1 pound of cleaned squid. Check out this CHOW video on how to clean squid for tips.
Special equipment: You will need a grill pan for this recipe.
- 1Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a tightfitting lid over medium heat until shimmering. Add the fennel and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until the alcohol smell cooks off, about 1 minute,
- 2Add the tomatoes, water, and capers along with any brine and stir to combine. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the fennel is fork tender and the flavors have melded, about 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover, and if the sauce is thin, increase the heat to medium high and cook until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Cover and keep warm.
For the polenta:
- 1Cook the polenta according to the package directions.
- 2Stir in the Parmesan (if using), salt, and pepper. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Cover and remove from heat.
For the calamari:
- 1Heat a dry grill pan over high heat until smoking, about 5 minutes.
- 2Meanwhile, whisk the parsley, garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the calamari and stir to coat.
- 3When the grill pan is hot, place the calamari bodies and tentacles 1 to 2 inches apart in the pan, working in batches as needed. Cook, turning once, until the bodies are just opaque and grill marks have appeared, about 1 1/2 minutes per side (do not overcook). Remove to a large plate and repeat with any remaining calamari.
- 1Spoon the polenta into a large rimmed serving plate or bowl. Top with the braised fennel and calamari and serve with lemon wedges on the side.