Fritto Misto is an Italian-inspired dish comprised of various types of seafood (and sometimes chunks of firm fish, like cod) that is dredged in batter and fried. It’s usually served with a good sprinkling of coarse sea salt while it’s still hot and then finished with chopped Italian parsley and lots of fresh squeezed lemon juice. It’s the perfect summer appetizer or first course. I love to serve it when entertaining during the summer months because it’s not only impressive, but so tasty! The fresher the fish, the better, so if your budget allows, I suggest using wild caught fish and seafood that still smells like the sea! Trust me, you will be able to taste the difference.
Last summer, we spent a few days at the Jersey Shore (Absecon area). We were with my teenage nephew, who also has celiac, so we were careful when selecting restaurants to dine at. We stumbled upon an Italian place that seemed to have very good customer reviews. In fact, the restaurant boasted “many gluten free options,” including “the best fried calamari around.” We were very excited to try it, so off we went. Fried calamari that didn’t taste like it was gluten free (as the restaurant claimed)? Was it too good to be true? Yup. It was very disappointing, to say the least. The calamari came out in a sad pool of gray-colored fried coating. It was like eating soggy rubber bands. There was no crunch. Nothing crispy at all. And it was gray instead of that beautiful golden color you expect to see from a gorgeous platter of fried seafood. Total bummer, which led to a very negative Yelp review.
My gluten free version of this spectacular seafood dish will not disappoint! I use a dry coating instead of a batter, which helps the fish to stay crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. I also like to throw in a big handful of sliced summer zucchini, which grows in abundance, as well as a handful of mild banana peppers (which you can find in a jar at the grocery store) for an unexpected bite of tang and heat. Here are my essential tips for making this recipe perfectly every time!
- Be sure to use the freshest seafood/fish you can afford!
- Shrimp should be peeled and deveined. I also prefer to remove the tails so it’s easier for my guests to eat without a knife, but you can leave them on if you like.
- For the calamari, slice the tubes into 1/4-1/2 inch thick rounds. Remove the head from the tentacle; discard the head.
- Seafood/fish should be patted very dry with paper towels after it’s rinsed and drained in a colander over the sink. If the fish is too wet, the coating won’t stick as well, and this will yield a soggy end result. You can rinse and drain the fish ahead of time and leave it in a colander over a bowl in the fridge. Be sure to drain off any excess water and pat dry again before dredging in the coating.
- The oil needs to be very hot! It should be 350 degrees at all times. Use a high heat oil like canola or vegetable oil. Don’t use olive oil, as it will burn very quickly. I like to keep a candy thermometer hanging on the pot I’m frying in so I can adjust the temperature as I’m frying.
- Use a spider or large slotted spoon to remove the food from the pot once it’s fried. Drain on paper towels, then transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley, if using. Squeeze the lemon juice over the whole platter just before serving. I also like to tuck additional lemon wedges around the platter for people to take with their serving.
- Don’t overcrowd your pot! The more food you add at one time, the lower the temperature of the oil. If the oil temp is too low, the food absorbs the oil, thus making it soggy. The temp needs to stay at 350 degrees for the food to be crispy. Fry in small batches to avoid the temp dropping too low.
- Lastly, if frying veggies along with the seafood, I like to fry the veggies first (zucchini in this case), then the fish/seafood, then finally, the peppers. Keep in mind the flavors of the food will permeate the oil, so I find that frying the veggies first keeps their flavor pure rather than tasting like fish. I fry the peppers last because my husband hates peppers, but you can fry them with the zucchini if you prefer.
Gluten Free Fritto Misto
- 2 pounds of large shrimp, cleaned and peeled (see note above)
- 1 pound of calamari, tubes and tentacles (see note above)
- 2 small-medium zucchini, washed well and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- Handful of mild banana peppers, drained of their jarring liquid (if you like your food spicy, you can certainly use hot peppers)
- Canola oil for frying
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal or polenta
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Sea salt, about one teaspoon
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Lemon wedges and chopped Italian parsley for serving
- Additional sea salt for serving
- Step 1 Combine all of the dry ingredients (except the parsley) in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add as much cayenne as you prefer or omit it completely.
- Step 2 Begin heating your oil in a wide, shallow enamel-coated pot. Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.
- Step 3 While the oil is heating, begin dredging your fish and veggies in the dry mixture. Shake off the excess coating on the side of the bowl. The coating should be light, to heavy or thick.
- Step 4 Fry in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pot.
- Step 5 With your spider or slotted spoon, turn the food around in the pot so it browns on all sides.
- Step 6 When it’s golden, remove it and drain on a paper towel lined plate. While still hot, sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Step 7 Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Before serving, give the whole platter and good squeeze of fresh lemon juice.