This dish is based on one eaten in Basque country: squid stewed in ink. I thought it would be boring to serve it in that way, so I hit upon the idea of making croquettes.
So, while it’s based on traditional Spanish cuisine, it’s served in a way that is unique to this restaurant.
I serve these squid ink croquettes at the beginning of spring, and they’re a very popular item, attracting many repeat customers!
The squid stewed in ink is made by sauteing onions, to which you add tomatoes, bay leaves and squid ink, before stewing the squid.
Sauteing the onions until they go an amber color brings out their sweetness. I add plenty of firefly squid to these amber onions, then stew slowly over a low heat to bring out the flavor of the squid. I then make it into a paste.
Now the paste is made, I will put it back on the heat. Forming the paste into balls, I coat them with breadcrumbs, then fry them in oil.
Keeping it over the flame, I add tomato sauce, milk, and flour while stirring constantly. The paste alone would have a very strong flavor, so I use these three ingredients to balance the flavor.
Q: How do you use the different tomato varieties for different purposes?
I actually don’t differentiate between them. This is not a dish in which tomatoes play a leading role, so I think you don’t have to be particular about them. It’s good to have just enough so that the tomatoes give a little accent, although having said that, it would taste weird if there were no tomatoes present.
Q: This is a dish that takes a lot of effort, right?
Indeed… it does take a very long time. First of all, it takes around 3-4 hours to create the initial paste.
My feeling is that, while using plenty of fancy ingredients is fine, taking ordinary ingredients and elevating them to something extraordinary is the essence of “cooking”.
To take ordinary ingredients and create something that makes people go, “Wow, I’ve never tasted anything like this before,” is something that I find interesting.
So, while grating truffles or topping things with caviar is fine, I just feel it’s difficult to leave a lasting impression on customers like that.
For instance, some people might be surprised to see sardines on the menu of a restaurant where a set meal costs ¥10,000, yet if I can get them to say it’s delicious, then I feel I have succeeded.
If that sort of food appears in a set meal that costs over ¥10,000, I believe it is worth it.
I’m going to chill these. Once they are cooled, they become firm, making it easy to shape them.
I add the squid ink at this point, creating a pitch black paste.
Now I will form shape the paste. I coat my hands in olive oil.
Oh, this time they’re a bit too soft (laughs).
I coat them in breadcrumbs and egg white. For the breadcrumbs I’m using my homemade squid ink bread.
In Spain, they use fine breadcrumbs like these. My concept for this dish is to use squid in every part.
Now I’ll make the sauce, by adding squid ink to aioli.
Q: Is presenting the dish a matter of individual style?
There’s no standard way. The degree of freedom with regards to cooking methods, presentation, and plating is one of the charms of Spanish cuisine.
I think that having your own original items is an important thing. Because, if you make commonplace dishes, customers will go elsewhere.
Therefore, I am conscious of the need for originality and a trick up one’s sleeve.
For example, concepts and themes that make one wonder at just how a classic dish can be transformed, or organic products and high-tech methods. Those sorts of things are becoming styles in themselves.
Q: What is that underneath the croquette?
This is squid ink bread broken into pieces with dry-cured ham, garlic, and paprika, which has been gently fried. It’s based on a dish from southern Spain called migas.
With this spread out underneath, I then place a croquette and sea urchin on top.
And, the dish is complete.
Um, I know this contradicts what I said earlier about not using expensive, fancy ingredients (laughs), but the thing is, sea urchin complements the squid ink croquette perfectly. Please, try it.