I realize that I promised something, you know, good this time, but circumstances conspired to keep that at bay for another little while. I have this totally awesome terrine I made, but now it looks like I have to save it for Saturday for a party. The terrine is a byproduct of the wonderful day of cooking we had here on Sunday, complete with Jen’s photography, but I can’t really spill the
offal beans about that until it comes out. So, to tide you over, because the Internet is both a harsh mistress and an insatiable gobbler of novelty, I offer you some humble noodle soup.
Now this is of course a subject I have broached about a million times here, but this time, as Hanover Fiste might say, “I got an angle.” See, there’s this new memey thing that’s sprung up about charcuterie. It’s a once-a-month carnivorous colloquy where people make something from Ruhlman/Polcyn’s eponymous book and learn by doing how to equip themselves with some of the very best meat products ever devised. And I wholly support that. Thing is, because I’ve ben doing it for a while, and I’m kind of a pain in the ass, I’m unlikely to stick to their schedule and format. But I will put up posts that link to it, because I feel so strongly that people need to take as much responsibility as they can for making this sort of food at home with responsibly sourced meat.
So this evening’s homily is on not just the nobility of a demotic meat-curing culture, but also its utility. See, having a fleshy, cured hunk of something or four on hand can exponentially multiply your options for weeknight phone-in dinners. Take, for example, tonight’s bowl of soup. Now stock-making is not charcuterie, but it’s even more important. If you don’t already, save leftover bones and simmer them with a few aromatics and then freeze the result in approximate quarts. You’ll be ever so glad you did. In this case, it was a beef-lamb-smoked pig’s foot stock that I defrosted as soon as it became obvious that noodle soup was all I was going to manage. I chopped some chard, and grated in a clove of garlic and a thumb of ginger, and let it all simmer together while the noodle water heated.
The noodles were half a package of rice vermicelli and a bundle of bean threads–what the cupboard had to offer–cooked together to save time. I portioned them into bowls and ladled in the stock. But here’s where the whole cured meat thing really came to my rescue, like a drunken Randy Quaid flying an F-14 up the ass of the “what’s for dinner?” mothership. I just so happen to have some freshly-made duck prosciutto and cow tongue pastrami in the fridge right now, so I sliced them thinly and fanned them across the top of each bowl like I meant it. And I must say, the meat-o-licious harmonies that ensued between polycarnal broth and cured/smoked muscle on top were something to experience. Without the addition of these delicacies, it would have been pretty thin gruel. But with them, apart from the giant flavor and texture boost, it had this air of intentionality: it looked like I meant it. Like I wasn’t completely abdicating my responsibilities as bread baker, winner, and maker of dinner. It looked halfway elegant, and tasted like a million smoky, meaty dollars.
So take that as your motivation. At the end of the day, it’s not about what other people think about your food. It’s how much pleasure you and your family get from it, and from how close to your home the components come. Learn a few simple things (the duck, guanciale, lardo, bresaola, pastrami and bacon if you have a smoker) and make them because they give you so many more options when it comes to adding luxurious depth of flavor to the simplest of quickly-made peasant meals. Because it is precisely when you can transform a 6:00 panic into this soup at 6:15 that you will understand the value of these techniques.
Also if you’re new here or haven’t yet, please click the like or join button over there on the right. I’m woefully late to the validation-whoring, and it will be most soul-warming for me if you add your little avatar to my panoply of fans in one form or another. I have two books in progress, and the people who make those things happen like big numbers, so you’ll be helping me get over that enormous hump. I like to think that this is a bit different from most of the related fare out there, and I do enjoy writing it. Thank you for your support.