Will this leave your waffle iron a mess? Probably. Probably an unholy mess. When I finished, the grids were coated in a thin film of squid — my waffle iron's very own marine layer. I did what I always do: patiently scraped up the biggest offending chunks with a silicone spatula, and then made a batch of waffles (out of waffle batter — and you have to love that I need to specify that) to lift out the rest of the nasty bits. The waffles were nothing you'd want to eat, but by the time they were done cooking they had absorbed every bit of squid that was clinging to my waffle iron.
And that is a hell of an introduction to this recipe.
The recipe comes from David Thompson's tremendous cookbook, Thai Food. The inspiration comes from a reader who wrote in after the waffled quesadillas. (Thanks, Elena.) "Why not try cephalopods — maybe squid?" she asked.
Why not? Because it's utterly impractical even by the standards of a blog dedicated to the ridiculous. Because my idea for the blog — most aspects of which are overthought to an almost paralyzing degree — was to offer people a mix of dishes that would be practical to make in their kitchens and dishes that would be impractical to make in their kitchens but fun to see made, and I wasn't sure if squid was either of those things.
No question it was a good idea. And I would like it, yes. But it didn't seem like the kind of thing that people would go for.
Then I thought about it for a couple of weeks. I realized I really had no grasp of what people go for, despite being 90% of the way through this blog.
And I realized that if I was going to worry about playing to the Internet, I could just post pictures of kittens and call it a day.
Which is how I found myself in Chicago's main library, thumbing through the Thai cookbooks to find a squid recipe suitable for waffling.
When I lived in Argentina, people would sometimes ask me what I missed most about the States. Some of them were probably a little taken aback when I answered Thai food. Thai cuisine does one thing better than any that I've ever come across, and that is striking a balance among sweet, sour, spicy and salty notes. This recipe — with its lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and hot peppers — is an excellent example of that.
Squid don't take long to cook, and the high heat of the waffle iron is pretty much perfect for the task. Squid are ranked as a "good alternative" in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sustainable seafood listings. They're also relatively inexpensive, especially when sold frozen. (The squid that's not sold frozen is usually previously frozen, so if you're able to plan ahead, you can save money by buying from the freezer case.)
The barest and yet still delicious version of this recipe makes use of ingredients you're likely to have on hand — with the possible exception of fish sauce — or at the very least can find substitutes for.
It comes together quickly, looks impressive on the plate and, in a mark of a great recipe, tastes much better than even the sum of its delicious parts. Thompson's version of the recipe does not make note of optional ingredients or include substitutions, but I've written a few notes below.
Waffled squid salad
- 6 oz. squid [200 grams]
- 3 shallots, finely sliced
- optional: Thai lime leaves, shredded
- optional: lemongrass, finely sliced
- optional: handful of mint or cilantro leaves
- optional: roasted peanuts, crushed
- 2 bird's eye chilies, sliced thin (substitution: red pepper flakes to taste)
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- large pinch sugar
1. Combine dressing ingredients and set aside.
2. Waffle the squid until opaque. This should only take about two minutes. When finished, cut into strips.
3. Allow squid to cool slightly, dress and serve immediately.