Recipe from Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard (Chronicle Books, 2011)This is a dish I've been playing around with since the Scylla days. I remember sitting on the couch on one of my days off (Monday was pretty much always the couch surfing/refuel/work-on-menu day) and I was trying to come up with something new to do with squid, as we always had some version of it on the menu. Often when I'm writing new menus, I make lists of all of the ingredients I want to include (mainly things that are in season), then I sort of play a matching game, crossing off ingredients as I go, as in "this will go with this, and that with that." I had lamb on the list because it was spring-a great time for lamb-and I decided to try the lamb and squid together. I'm a big fan of combining two proteins on one plate (often seafood and meat, a bit of a surf and turf-which I'm sure bugs the hell out of those who don't eat meat).
So I got to work making the lamb filling and it needed a bit of a salty kick, but something earthy to complement the subtle gaminess. Miso was just the trick. Like using tamari in hummus, adding that little extra bit of miso paste makes a huge difference. If you can, try to make each component of the dish so you get how the flavors work together, but you can also simplify by serving it with either the almond butter sauce or the vinaigrette as opposed to both. The squid are also great topped with other sauces like the Picada, the Romesco, or just with a simple salad.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- 1 teaspoon sambal paste
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 4 shallots, sliced into very thin rounds
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 medium squid tubes, plus tentacles (about 1 pound)
- Peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 cup Miso-Marcona Almond Butter (recipe follows)
- 6 tablespoons Cilantro Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Recipe from Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard (Chronicle Books, 2011)1. To make the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Sweat the shallot and garlic by cooking them until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add the lamb, mustard, miso, sambal, and soy sauce and cook to brown lightly, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, to make the crispy shallots: Heat the peanut oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed medium saucepot until it registers 375°F on a deep-fry thermometer (see Quick Tip, below).
3. Mix together the rice flour and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Coat the shallots in the flour mixture and then shake them in a sieve to remove any excess flour. Carefully add the shallots to the hot oil in two batches and move them around with tongs as they fry to avoid clumping. When each batch is lightly browned and crispy, remove the shallots to drain on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
4. Preheat the grill (charcoal or gas) to medium. When the lamb mixture is cool enough to handle, stuff it into the squid tubes. Brush the outside of each tube with the peanut oil and toss the tentacles in oil as well. Grill the stuffed tubes and tentacles until just cooked through, turning once or twice, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Serve the squid over a smear of the almond butter and top with a drizzle of the cilantro vinaigrette and the crispy fried shallots.
Quick Tip: If you don't have a deep-fry thermometer, put the handle end of a wooden spoon in the hot oil to test the temperature instead. When a steady stream of bubbles forms around the handle, the oil is hot enough.
Drink Tip: There's a lot going on in this dish, so when you're facing a ton of different flavors to pair with, the best solution is to go with something fairly innocuous that won't clash. Grüner Veltliners from Austria are perfect wines for this: not too dry, not too sweet, not too acidic … just nice and fresh to let the food come through.
Ingredient Spotlight: Squid (a.k.a. Calamari)
Most people only associate squid with the fried rings at red-sauce Italian joints, which is also why there's often confusion over whether squid and calamari are the same thing. They are; calamari is simply the Italian term for squid. These slippery cephalopods (say that ten times fast) are cousins to both octopus and cuttlefish, and they're actually much more versatile than you'd think. The tubes are perfect for stuffing and grilling, but they will overcook quickly and become rubbery so you want to make sure your stuffing is precooked and that you're cooking the filled tubes just long enough to heat them through. Don't be nervous about selecting them, as most squid will be sold "refreshed" anyway (meaning they've been flash-frozen, then thawed before sale) and that's okay; most restaurants get it that way too. If they're still frozen, just let them thaw under running water and make sure to rinse them inside and out-just like finding the occasional pit in pitted olives, there could be a few things hiding in the tubes.
Miso-Marcona Almond Butter
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Marcona almonds are a bit dangerous because there's no way you can eat just one. The best solution I found is to turn them into a nut butter and then you have no idea how many you're eating! You really don't need to add much to almond butter to make it delicious, but for this recipe I decided to add a bit of depth through miso and a little spice from sambal. It makes a great sauce for grilled shrimp, sautéed scallops, or lamb meatballs, and feel free to thin it a bit with water to your desired consistency for other uses-it's intense enough to handle being spread a bit thin.
- 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) Marcona almonds
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon sambal paste
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the almonds, olive oil, 3 tablespoons water, the miso, soy sauce, honey, and sambal in a blender or food processor and process into a thick-textured sauce. Scrape down the sides with a spatula once or twice and process again. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate, well covered, for several weeks.
Ingredient Spotlight: Marcona Almonds
Marcona almonds are like the front-row seats of the nut world-more expensive, but worth every penny. Rounder and sweeter than traditional almonds, these Spanish exports have a higher fat content as well, making them great for purées or soups to add extra richness. Typically you'll find them in store already toasted, tossed in oil, and seasoned (usually with salt and sometimes also rosemary), so seek out plain Marconas if you can. But if the seasoned are all you can find, just taste them to judge their saltiness and adjust accordingly when cooking with them.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Use this just as you would cilantro, leaning toward Mexican or Asian foods. I like it as a nice topper for grilled skirt steak or as a dip for grilled shrimp.
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1 cup blended oil (half vegetable, half olive)
- 1 1/2 cups tightly packed fresh cilantro (some stem is okay)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
Put the vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, and garlic in a blender. Blend on low speed and slowly drizzle in the blended oil with the motor running. Add the cilantro, honey, and red pepper flakes and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.