Fried Calamari Salad with Caesar Dressing

“This salad recipe was from the time that I worked at L'Ecole in the French Culinary Institute,” says chef Quang Tran of Mes Rêves in Bloomfield. “This was one dish that chef Andre Soltner, who was one of the deans of the FCI at the time, always ordered when he came in for dinner. The prep for the eggless Caesar dressing is a little involved, but worth it.”

Photo by Laura Moss.

Ingredients:  4 servings

4    Whole calamari (including tentacles)
2    Romaine hearts
12    Cherry tomatoes
8 tbs    Caesar dressing (see below)
1 cup    Wondra flour
to taste     Salt and pepper


1.    Clean and separate the tentacles from the bodies.  Slice each body into 5 rings.
2.    Clean and chop romaine hearts by quartering lengthwise then cross cut to bite sizes, about ½ inch.
3.    Clean and halve the cherry tomatoes
4.    In a bowl, combine the Wondra (or any fine flour) with a table spoon of salt and pepper.  This will be used to drench the calamari for deep frying.

5.    Set fryer temperature at 350 degree. Drench the rings and tentacles in the flour mixture and deep fry until golden brown.  Drain and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.    In a large bowl, toss the chopped romaine with the Caesar dressing. Ideally, just enough dressing to coat each bite, but add more if desired.  Divide the dressed romaine in 4 separate bowls or plates.

7.    Dress the halved cherry tomatoes and arrange 6 on each plate.

8.    Croutons (purchase your favorite brand) are crumbled on top of the salad.  Then arrange the 5 calamari rings and 1 tentacle each on top to complete the dish.

Caesar Dressing


½ oz        Garlic (2 or 3 cloves)
1 oz        Anchovies (2 or 3 filets)
1 oz        Shallots
1 oz        Cornichons (2 to 4 depending on size)
½ cup        Grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup        Mayonnaise
¼ cup        Dijon mustard
½ cup        Olive oil
1 tsp        Lemon juice
        Salt and pepper


1.    Finely chop the garlic. With the flat of the knife, press and spread the chopped garlic back and forth with a pinch of salt until it becomes a paste.  Mince the anchovies (add more if desired).  Finely chop the shallots and cornichons.

2.    In a bowl, combine the mayo, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Fold in the garlic paste, anchovies, shallots, and cornichons.

3.    Whisk the mixture as you slowly stream in the olive oil to get a good emulsification.  (I don’t use extra virgin olive oil because it leaves too bitter a taste for me.)

4.    Fold in the finely grated parmesan cheese.  Keep cold until ready to serve.

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