One of the best things about eating animals (ethically raised ones, that is) actually takes place days after the eating, when their bones, carcasses, and sometimes extra cooking liquid become transformed into stock. Homemade stock, whether from raw or cooked bones (or my favorite, a combination) is the single most useful culinary tool you can have on hand. And because it is infinitely variable, sometimes somewhat randomly by the cooked flavors and/or combinations of multiple meals’ worth of bones, it can make every meal uniquely memorable.
This stock was chicken pho. The bones from those chicken wings in the last post, plus their uncooked tips (see?) simmered low and slow with charred onion and ginger, a cinnamon stick, fennel seeds because we’re out of star anise, cloves, coriander, cardamom, and black peppercorns for an hour or two while I worked, perfuming the house with a pretty splendid aroma. This made it nearly impossible to work, which completely undermined the efficiency I thought I was achieving by making the stock ahead of time like a smart guy.
When it was time to eat, I blanched some pak choi in water, then pulled it out and threw in some rice noodles. I took a nice piece of wild sockeye salmon, portioned it, and put it skin side down in the iron skillet to get good and crispy. While it did, I made a glaze out of rice vinegar, fish sauce, and maple syrup; once the skin was crispy, I flipped the fish and dumped in the sauce—not too much, just a thin layer—shaking them around to coat in the reducing goodness, flipping them again as it thickened to a sweet, sour, umami-filled stickiness. The skin in that shot up top reminds me of the lacquer over gold leaf one sees on some Japanese tableware and furniture. It’s magical, and if served quickly, the skin stays crisp even with the liquid coating.
And when the fish is perched atop a nest of noodles bright with greens and cilantro, the complex spice-embellished scent of pho rising up around it, there’s nothing more you need to conclude a rainy day.