Fritto Misto

One of the glories of food in Venice is the fritto misto served at many seafood restaurants. It was originally a dish designed to use up the little fish that were caught but deemed too small to sell; today it is more sophisticated. Shrimps, scallops, squid and other fish are part of the mix and it usually includes sardines as they are the typical fish of Venice. Depending on the restaurant, some fritto misto is floured and fried; other restaurants use a batter, which I prefer. This is a very light batter so that the taste of the seafood zings in your mouth. Serve it immediately after you fry it or, if you have no choice, keep it warm in a 200°F oven until needed.

Serves 4

Approx. 4 cups canola oil for deep frying 
1¼ cups all-purpose flour 
¼ cup cornstarch 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp salt 
Pepper to taste 
1½ cups very cold water 
2 tbsp vegetable oil 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
4 extra-large scallops 
4 sardines 
8 extra-large shrimp 
3 squid cut in ¼- or ½-inch (5-mm or 1-cm) rings with tentacles 
1 lemon cut in wedges 

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Heat 3 inches oil over high heat in a wok or deep fryer. Heat until oil is 350 F or until a cube of bread turns brown in 15 seconds.

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Pour water and oil into a large boil. Whisk in flour mixture to make a smooth batter.

Place 1 cup flour on a plate for dredging.

Season all the seafood with salt and pepper. Working with one kind of seafood at a time, dredge in flour and dip in batter to coat.

Working in batches, fry scallops and sardines for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned and just cooked through. Fry shrimp for 2 minutes or until pink and lightly curled. Fry squid for 1 minute or until opaque. Remove all seafood from oil as it is cooked and let drain on paper towels. Place on a baking sheet and keep warm in oven. 

Place seafood on a platter and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with Italian Tartar Sauce.