Bowls of Sweet & Creamy Crab & Calamari Seafood Bisque get dressed up for Halloween as Savory Kraken Pot Pies! With black squid ink, lightly fried tentacles, & a buttery pastry top, it’s easy to believe these little horrors come straight from the deep seas.
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Crab & Calamari Seafood Bisque
Below the thunders of the upper deep;Excerpt from The Kraken by Alfred Tennyson, 1830
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth…
Halloween is likely my favorite food holiday. Costumes. Spooky décor. Horror movie marathons. Dry ice EVERYWHERE. As everyone and everything puts on masks and gets dressed up, even your food has the opportunity to take on an otherworldly disguise.
Full of the rich, creamy flavors of a traditional seafood bisque, this crab and calamari pot pie takes on a disturbing shade of grey due to the addition of naturally black squid ink. Tender calamari rings add a bit of texture to the broth, and fried calamari tentacles climb over the rim of the bowl, pushing over the woven puff pastry lid perched on top.
While a lot of Halloween themes are aimed at kids and full of kitsch, I love a stylish, gourmet party in October. These little bowls of seafood bisque disguised as monstrous Kraken Pot Pies are sure to take center stage at a classy gothic dinner party.Jump to Recipe
Kraken, Giant Squid, & Other Horrors of the Deep
According to written accounts, Giant Squid have been terrorizing sailors on the high seas for generations. The most famous of these is the Kraken. While the Norwegian name originally referred to a specific legendary sea monster believed to roam off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, today the term more generally refers to mythically large cephalopods throughout legend and popular culture. While certainly the idea of tentacled beasts ripping apart ships sounds like a fantastic exaggeration, the discovery of actual giant squid lends some credence to the idea that the reports could have been based on something real – even if such behavior seems out of character for squid and octopi.
Regardless, there is something otherworldly about creeping, crawling, suction-cupped tentacles. Even H.P. Lovecraft – known to many as the father of weird horror fiction – took advantage of the visceral reaction humans have to such things. Tentacles are a primary descriptor of his famous dark entity, Cthulhu, as well as other elder gods and horrors of the deep. Maybe there is something primordial in our human ancestry that explains the common feelings of fear these winding appendages evoke.
Or maybe it’s just that squid isn’t a common protein in the American diet, despite how utterly delicious they can be when cooked well.
Utilizing Special Ingredients
Calamari Rings & Tentacles
Cooking up calamari (fresh squid) is a lot easier than you’d think. If you aren’t up to butchering you own whole squid, you can purchase pre-cleaned and frozen bodies and tentacles from the store. After a quick thaw in the fridge overnight, the “tubes” are easily sliced into rings. While you can purchase just the tubes – the body of the squid – for calamari rings, I personally love how crunchy the tentacles get when lightly fried. And honestly, you can’t deny how impressive they’d look with very little effort.
Squid Ink Paste
Squid ink – sometimes sold as cuttlefish ink – is an exotic ingredient you can find in many Mediterranean pasta dishes. Not only does it act as a natural dye (in this case, turning the naturally pink seafood bisque to a grotesque grey), squid ink also adds a subtle saltiness. It’s a luxury ingredient, but a small jar can go a long way and will last awhile in your fridge.
Woven Puff Pastry Tops
They may look incredibly fancy, but making woven pastry tops as pictured here is actually very easy with the help of store-bought puff pastry. I bake the lids separately from the soup in this recipe, as I think it looks like nicer presentation wise and it keeps the pastry from getting soggy.
Once you’ve let the frozen puff pastry thaw in the fridge according to package instructions, lay each sheet out on a lightly floured surface. Smooth out any creases with a rolling pin, rolling the dough to about one-eighth an inch thick. Using a pastry cutter (or a pizza cutter, like me), cut the dough into long strips, about one-half inch wide.
Check the size of the bowls you plan to serve the seafood bisque in, and either match it to an appropriately sized circular cookie cutter, or make a quick stencil out of parchment paper by tracing the rim of the bowl. With this size in mind, cut the long strips of puff pastry to a length that would just overlap the rim of each bowl. Weave the strips together into a square.
Once the square is large enough, use the cookie cutter (or stencil) to cut out a woven circle. Repeat until you have enough for each bowl. Carefully transfer the pastry lids to a parchment lined tray, brush with egg wash, and bake until golden.
To complete the sea monster theme, pair your Kraken Pot Pies with glasses of Under the Scarlet Sea Bourbon Punch, garnished with tapioca pearl “caviar”. Your guests will certainly be impressed, and you’ll have a fabulous meal as decadently delicious as it is horrifying. Happy Halloween!
Savory Kraken Pot Pies
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- ½ pound squid, tubes sliced into rings and tentacles separated
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 cup dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup leeks, diced
- ½ cup fennel, diced
- 2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 5 cups vegetable stock, divided
- ½ pound crab meat
- 1 teaspoon squid ink
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
Fried Calamari Tentacles
- 2 cup neutral oil (vegetable or canola)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Pot Pie Crust
- 1 package puff pastry sheets (about 1 pound)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ to 1 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
Make the Seafood Bisque
Prepare the Calamari Rings: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Setting the tentacles aside for later use, sauté the calamari rings in the butter for 2-4 minutes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper, tossing occasionally until they reach a texture similar to al-dente pasta. Remove the cooked rings from the pan to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
Start the Soup Base: Drain any excess liquid from the pan and discard. Deglaze the sauté pan with the brandy, and melt another 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the celery, leeks, fennel, and mushrooms to the pan. Let the vegetables sweat in the pan for 5-7 minutes. This will form the base of your soup.
Deglaze the pan again with the dry sherry. Add the tomato paste, cayenne pepper, paprika, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf. Toss together and sauté for 3 minutes.
Stir in 3 cups of the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes to reduce the liquids. Stir in the crabmeat and cook for one minute more.
In batches, carefully puree the soup in a blender and set aside.
Make a Squid Ink Roux: In the same pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle with ¼ cup flour and quickly whisk the two together into a paste. Let the mixture cook until lightly golden. Whisking continuously, slowly incorporate the remaining 2 cups of vegetable stock, followed by the heavy cream. When the roux is creamy and completely smooth, whisk in ½ to 1 teaspoon black squid ink to give the mixture a dark grey, nearly black hue.
Finish the Seafood Bisque: Stir the pureed crab soup mixture into the squid ink roux. The soup will take on a grim grey color. Stir in the sautéed calamari rings and remove the soup from heat. Keep warm if you will be serving the soup shortly, or transfer to a container and chill until needed.
Prepare the Woven Pot Pie Crusts
Allow the pastry to thaw according to package directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet with a parchment paper lining. The pastry lids are baked separately from the soup bowls to retain their crispness.
Roll & Cut: Once pliable but still chilled, unfold the sheets of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry out until about 1/8 inch thick, and then gently cut the pastry into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
Form the Pastry Lids: To create a lattice work, weave the strips of pastry into the shape of a square large enough to fit the tops of the bowls or ramekins you plan to serve the bisque in. (For help making a pastry lattice, see this tutorial).
Using a circular cookie cutter (or a parchment stencil) the size of the bowls to be used, cut a circular pastry lid out of each woven square until you have enough for at least six small bowls or ramekins. Arrange the pastry lids on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill for 10-15 minutes. (The woven pastry lids can be made and frozen up to a week before – just allow them to come to almost room temperature before baking).
Bake: Whisk together the egg and tablespoon of water to make a simple egg wash. Brush this on the tops of each pastry lid. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crusts are a nice golden brown.
Fry the Calamari Tentacles
Right before you plan to serve, heat two cups of canola oil in a medium size, heavy-bottomed sauce pot over high heat, until the oil reaches 350 degree F. Set a cooling rack over foil or parchment paper.
As the oil heats, whisk together the flour, parsley, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. One at a time, lightly dredge each of the of calamari tentacles in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Place dredged tentacles on a clean plate.
Once the oil is ready, carefully drop the tentacles into the pot two or three at a time. Let them fry for one minute, and then fish them out with a spider (or other fine mesh strainer). Lay the fried tentacles out on the cooling rack to drain.
Assemble the Kraken Pot Pies
If the seafood bisque is chilled or has otherwise gone cold, heat it through on the stove over medium heat, but do not let it boil. Transfer the soup to individual ramekins.
Arrange a few of the fried tentacles on the edges of each bowl, so that they curl out and over the rims. Place a baked pastry lid on top, making it look like the tentacles are trying to reach out of the soup. Serve to your guests for a creepy but delicious first course!