A “mixed fry” is a typical main course in many regions of Italy. In Piedmont, it is made with vegetables and meats, such as baby lamb chops, cutlets and brains, often in a light bread crumb coating. In Venice, Rome and Naples, and along the rest of Italy’s coastline, seafood is used instead of meat, and the coating is thin and sheer, often just a dusting of flour. Fry the ingredients in small batches for a crisp, light result.
- 1/2 lb. cleaned squid
- 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- About 8 fresh sardines, smelts, anchovies, whitebait or other small fish, cleaned and gutted if necessary
- 2 lemons
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Sea salt, to taste
- Olive or canola oil for deep-frying
- 2 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into sticks 2 inches long by 1/4 inch wide and thick
Rinse the squid, shrimp and sardines. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the squid bodies into rings 1/2 inch wide and the tentacles into bite-size pieces.
Cut 1 lemon crosswise into very thin slices and remove the seeds. Cut the second lemon into wedges and set aside.
In a bowl, toss together the flour and a pinch of salt.
Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 200°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set it next to the stove. Pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches into a deep, heavy fry pan and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
When the oil is ready, add about one-fourth of the seafood, lemon slices and zucchini to the flour and toss until lightly coated. Lift from the flour, shaking off the excess, and drop the pieces a few at a time into the hot oil, being careful that the oil doesn’t splash. Fry until the shrimp turn pink and the other ingredients are pale gold, about 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the seafood, lemon slices and zucchini to the prepared baking sheet to drain and place it in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining ingredients in 3 batches, always allowing the oil to return to the original frying temperature before adding the next batch. If the oil is not hot enough, the foods will absorb it, making them greasy.
Transfer the seafood, zucchini and lemon slices to a warmed serving platter. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with the lemon wedges. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).