I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately. It’s mostly been turning the last of the harvest into value-added staples that will last into the winter: quarts of stock in the chest freezer, a gallon of fermenting cabbage and carrots, bread, and some pretty great carrot-ginger soup made with a beef-goat-smoked pig leg phở that is not the worst thing I’ve ever made. (There are four more quarts of the stock frozen for future debauchery). One of my projects is not quite ready, though it will be by tomorrow, and with any luck it will be as good as I hope.
The phở was the happy result of a bag of beef bones, a couple bone-in hunks of goat meat, and one of the four hocks of the pig I helped to kill and butcher last summer. I smoked them and froze them for just such an eventuality; the goat added needed meatiness to a big pot of bones, and the hock added gelatin and a gentle smokiness. After hours of simmering with aromatics and the usual spicy suspects, I strained it all, picked the meat off, and tossed the bare bones. There was a good meal-sized quantity of meat, so I saved it.
Meanwhile, I took some of the stock and made a quick noodle soup with it, throwing in some turkey meatballs seasoned with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and a bit of miso. Rice noodles and blanched pak choi to round it out. Togarashi for zing. Very nice on a cold night.
And that meat–that shreddy, shreddy mixture of goat and pork–from the stock-making became the basis for a superb pasta sauce that really deserved homemade fettucine and yet did not get them because life isn’t fair. I simmered the meat with a jar of the wondrous summer tomato sauce, herbs, garlic, and a splash of wine, then ground it all up in the food mill and then simmered it more, wetting it with stock to keep it from sticking. It found that heretofore unknown spot exactly halfway between ragù and pulled pork. I garnished it with immature marjoram flowers, because they’re pretty. Oregano gets props for being so tenacious and indestructible, but for my money marjoram is a much tastier herb. It also looks nice in its pot in the dining room.
And then there was the half gallon of phở-scented, gingery carrot soup that I made with many of the roots I pulled up just before the freeze. After cooking and blending it all, I pushed it through the tamis for the velvety texture that makes all the difference with this sort of soup. Another illustration of what may be the first rule of frugal kitchen efficiency: one big pot of stock makes a near-infinite variety of great meals possible with almost no forethought. I calculated that the bones and such that went in the big pot probably cost about $8 total. That’s a gallon of stock, 2 quarts of carrot soup, the turkey soup (sans meatballs) and the pasta sauce for $10 if you count the pint of tomato sauce and the noodles. You can’t beat that with a stick.