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Calamari taco, crispy, slightly chewy, sweet and spicy

February 11, 2010

I am resurrecting one of my signature dishes from my first restaurants, Sweet Heat.
I transferred from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco back in 1991. One of my chefs there had been a chef for the United Nations. He had a great repertoire of “cooking without borders” as he had to please palates from all over the world. He taught me a Chinese coating that yields a unique crispy yet chewy coating. The secret is whisking egg whites with baking powder and then dredging it in cornstarch. You let the cornstarch coated calamari air-dry in the refrigerator un-covered. The outside forms a crust keeping the inside moist. You then deep fry the calamari. One thing I have been reminded of is the natural flavor and color the oil gets as it is used throughout the day in the restaurant. That fine line between “seasoned” oil and ready to be changed. It is hard to get the same color/flavor in my home fryer because it is fresh oil that is not seasoned/used. The calamari cooks very quickly so you want to make sure you don’t overcook it trying to get it too golden.

The sauce is a quick blender sauce of ripe pineapple, fresh habanero chile, white onion, a touch of ground coriander and allspice (gives it almost a “jerk” flavor profile; tropical fruit and spices). The sweetness of the pineapple and the piercing fruity heat of the habanero are a natural match. That marriage was the inspiration for “Sweet Heat”. The sharp white onion gives the sauce some body and the spices add some depth and take the flavor profile “without borders”. It is a bit of Mexico, a bit of the islands and 100% irresistible.

Top it off with shredded cabbage (red or green) fresh cilantro, creamy ripe avocado and a fresh squeeze of lime juice.

Eat Well, Enjoy life, Be happy

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