Why It Works
- Squid ink, not food coloring, is the secret to the dramatic black color of the broth and noodles.
- Cooking mussels in gelatin-rich chicken broth creates a quick and flavorful broth with plenty of body.
When it comes to Halloween, I'm often the Grinch. No, I don't mean I dress up as the Grinch; I mean it's my least favorite holiday.
There are a few reasons. First, because I grew up in New York City in an era when Halloween meant running home from school as quickly as possible to avoid being pelted by eggs filled with Nair hair remover (trick-or-treating, as you can imagine, wasn't much fun). Second, because I've already gotten a lifetime's worth of costume-wearing out of my system: I was an incredibly bizarre child who dressed up in a new homemade outfit every day for kindergarten,* and later spent years parading around on stage as an extra in countless operas at the Met—once you've worn an elaborate traje de luces as a toreador in Carmen, all other costumes pale by comparison. And finally, because most Halloween food just straight-up sucks.
My all-time favorite was my "old man" character, which included plaid wool slacks, ecru shirt, brown velvet jacket, homburg hat, and cane. It's kinda crazy how well I nailed that look.
For all its kitschy fun, Halloween food tends to be stuff I wouldn't want to eat any other day of the year, so I see no reason to eat it on Halloween either. This is why, when I volunteered to come up with a Halloween recipe for Serious Eats, I told myself it would have to be something I'd want to cook and eat year-round.
As my deadline approached, I started to get nervous, because I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make. In theory, it sounds easy: Make something that captures the spirit of Halloween, but is also really, deeply, crave-ably delicious. No cheap tricks or food coloring allowed.
And then, on the morning that the recipe had to be photographed—moments before I was about to give up and call the whole thing off—it came to me like a bad dream. Black broth. Black noodles. Black sheets of nori. Black garlic oil. Black everything. A bowl of midnight ramen.
I grabbed the jar of squid ink that had made itself too comfortable in my fridge and set out shopping. As I walked through the market, the idea continued to evolve. No, not black everything...I need some color. I need orange. And I need an egg. There's going to be squid ink in this, so it's clearly seafood ramen. I know: salmon roe!
I headed to the fish counter for the roe, and my eyes landed on a bag of jet-black mussels. Boom! And then I saw glistening bodies of squid a few feet over. Squid has the potential to look creepy, and given the squid ink in this, the ramen practically demanded it!
And then, why not some green, mossy bank in a forbidden swamp? Microgreens went into the cart (but you can really use any leafy green, or even thinly sliced scallions).
At the office, I asked Niki to lend me her crafty skills by cutting a sheet of nori into a bat, its fangs dripping with rabid saliva. The broth itself was dead easy: basic chicken stock, rich with the gelatin of bones (either naturally extracted during the stock-making process or added in the form of unflavored gelatin), and some miso.
Shortly before serving, I added the mussels—two pounds of aquatic souls perishing in the heat. And then just enough jet-black squid ink to make children cry for their milk.
As for the noodles, I got some store-bought squid-ink spaghetti and boiled it using the baking soda trick that gives regular pasta the flavor and texture of ramen noodles.
I cut the squid bodies into thin strips and seared them in an infernally hot skillet to make them look like slithery worms, then cooked some cremini mushrooms in the same pan for another quick topping, their earthy flavor suggesting the smell of a freshly dug grave. BWAHAHAHAAAAA! (Maybe I can get into this Halloween thing after all...)
When you eat it, the blackness will surge through your veins and darken your heart. That, or it will make you really happy and you'll decide to make it again next week, when it's not Halloween at all.
4 1/2 quarts (4.3L) homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
4 packets unflavored gelatin (1 ounce; 28g), optional (see note)
2 teaspoons (10ml) squid ink (see note)
6 tablespoons (90ml) vegetable, canola, or other neutral oil, divided
1/2 pound (225g) squid bodies, split open lengthwise and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
1 pound (450g) cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
2 pounds (900g) mussels, washed, beards removed
2 tablespoons (30g) miso
4 tablespoons (72g) baking soda
4 quarts (3.8L) boiling water
1 pound (about 450g) dried squid-ink spaghetti
2 ounces (55g) salmon roe
Micro greens, arugula, or other tender leafy green
Sheets of nori, for serving (see note)
1 recipe black garlic oil
If using store-bought chicken broth or homemade broth that doesn't gel when chilled, add broth to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin all over; let stand 10 minutes. Transfer broth to a large pot or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Stir in squid ink until fully dissolved. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil in a large skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Season squid with salt, add to skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through and browned in spots, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer squid to a plate and keep warm. Add remaining 4 tablespoons (60ml) oil to skillet, heat until shimmering over medium-high heat, and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned. Season with salt and transfer to a plate; keep warm.
Return broth to a simmer, add mussels, and cook until opened, about 5 minutes. Stir in miso and season broth with salt.
While mussels are cooking, dissolve baking soda in the 4 quarts (3.8L) boiling water and season with salt. Boil spaghetti until just al dente. Drain.
Transfer spaghetti to bowls. Ladle broth on top. Garnish with mussels, squid, mushrooms, salmon roe (spoon roe into an empty mussel-shell half for best presentation), micro greens, and nori. Drizzle black garlic oil on top and serve.
Use the gelatin only if using store-bought stock or if your homemade stock remains watery even when chilled; homemade stock that's naturally high in gelatin, which sets when it's chilled, does not need additional gelatin. Squid ink is available from good fishmongers and specialty food stores. For Halloween, feel free to have fun with the nori by cutting it with scissors into a bat shape, or skip the special shapes and just garnish each bowl with a small sheet of nori.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||29%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||13%|
|Total Carbohydrate 20g||7%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 11mg||55%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|