Key Ingredient: John Hogan creates foam with fermented squid guts | Key Ingredient | Chicago Reader

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Key Ingredient: John Hogan creates foam with fermented squid guts

Challenged to create a dish with shiokara, the River Roast chef breaks his own rule against making foams.


Jar of ika no shiokara - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Jar of ika no shiokara

The Chef: John Hogan (River Roast)
The Challenger: Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi, Slurping Turtle, et al.)
The Ingredient: Shiokara

Shiokara can be made from several types of marine animal—oyster, crab, tuna, sea cucumber, and others—but the most common variety is ika no shiokara, made from cuttlefish squid that's been salted and fermented in its own viscera (aka guts), and is usually considered an acquired taste.

John Hogan, chef at the new River Roast, challenged to create a dish with shiokara by Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi, Slurping Turtle, et al.), describes the taste as slightly sweet and liver-y, a little like foie gras, with a "jelly-like" texture. Popular in Japan, it's not easy to find here: Hogan had to go to Mount Prospect to locate an Asian market that stocked it.

John Hogan - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • John Hogan

Hogan considered doing a traditional Japanese preparation, like tossing the shiokara with noodles, soy sauce, and dashi broth, but decided to stick with his specialty: terrines. The one he made included barbecued squid and eel, chile-marinated squid, pickled burdock and daikon roots, seaweed, and trout roe, held together with highly seasoned, gelatin-infused dashi and wrapped in nori.

Shiokara - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Shiokara

The shiokara, though, was "very creamy and a little bit slimy, so it wasn't going to work in the terrine," Hogan says. Instead he put it into a foam to serve with the terrine, going against his aversion to making foam. "Foam is for bathtubs, cappuccino, and beer mugs," he says. "That's it. Not for food."

He pureed the shiokara in a blender with heavy cream, dashi, soy sauce, lime juice, mirin (a rice wine), and soy lecithin (to make it foamy), joking that he'd just made a "squid shake." After warming the mixture slightly on the stovetop, he used an immersion blender to make it foam up and spooned a little of the foam on top of a slice of the terrine.

"I don't know if I'd serve it [at River Roast], but if I had a Japanese restaurant I might," Hogan said. "The sweetness and creaminess of the shiokara with the texture of the terrine is pretty cool."

Terrine of squid, eel, and pickled vegetables with shiokara foam - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Terrine of squid, eel, and pickled vegetables with shiokara foam

Who's next:

Hogan has challenged Jimmy Bannos Jr. of the Purple Pig to create a dish with live sea urchin. "You have to literally cut the shell open, harvest the gonads of the sea urchin, clean out the shell—and then hopefully he uses the shell as a vessel for whatever he's making with it," Hogan says.

Shiokara foam

4 oz shiokara
2 oz heavy cream
6 oz dashi
1 oz soy
1 oz mirin (rice wine)
1 oz lime juice
1 tbs soy lecithin

Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend, and pour into a saucepan and heat over low heat until just barely warm. Use a an immersion blender to make the mixture foam up.

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