Welcome to discusscooking. Let's see.......here's my thoughts on fried calamari:
If cooking batter-dipped rings you need to cook quickly and use high heat. The calamari rings should be fried for just under a minute or so. If fried longer they WILL be chewy. I cut mine in maybe 1/2" rings versus smaller. After I cut the squid I place the rings in the freezer for about 5 minutes or so (this was told to me by a local restaurant who has the BEST fried calamari so who am I to question!!! :D Actually, I put my onion rings in ice water before dipping in batter and frying - it's probably the same principle, the cold keeps the food from absorbing so much of the oil.
Add enough oil in a skillet to measure 2 inches and heat to 375°F. Make sure that the calamari can sit on the bottom of the pan. This way the dry ingredients won't fall off. The hot oil will cook it quickly, also helping with this.
Use a thermometer to be sure oil is hot enough. Mix equal parts of cornmeal and flour and then add salt and pepper and a little garlic powder. I have also added oregano and basil (both dried) to the flour mixture and it was quite yummy too.
Mix these ingredients together in a bag or bowl, remove calamari from freezer and add to dry mixture, mixing or shaking well to coat. Try using the bag first, that way you can sling it around and shake it and really work that flour mixture into the rings.
If you notice that the flour/corn meal mixture hasn't adhered to the rings - shake some more. Add the calamari to the oil and cook for about 45-50 seconds. The calamari should be a golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
**NOTE - you want to either use a vegetable oil or peanut oil. Do NOT use olive oil as you cannot heat it as high as the other oils. Also, you want something flavorless to cook in. Also, if using fresh calamari be sure you are scraping the skin off.
We like to serve ours with a chunky tomato/spaghetti sauce and sliced sweet banana pepper rings. I just use Hunt's Traditional spaghetti sauce and add roughtly chopped canned tomatoes (no juice so drain well) to it and heat together slowly and let it thicken. YUM - take fork, pick up calamari, dip in tomato sauce, top with banana pepper.......heaven!
I sure hope this helps a little. Let us know how it turns out next time you cook it. If you are worried about cooking the squid for such a short time just remember that I eat it raw!!! Test one handful with cooking longer if you are uncomfortable and see how it turns out. You can also just use flour. Experiment and see what you like best.