Castles Made Of Couscous Melt Into The Cheese, Eventually

I made some pretty good chicken pho last night. Muggy heat notwithstanding, the Kid wanted chicken noodle soup because he wasn’t feeling well. So I dutifully trudged off to the weekly market, procured a bunch of chicken wings, and trudged home. Wings make good stock. Normally, I make, you know, wings with them, saving the tips, and then cook the cooked second and third segments with the raw tips to make a wonderfully flavored but still gelatinous stock later on. This time there was no time, so in the pot they went, whole and unjointed, with all the pho-requisite flavors.

In place of rice noodles, I used some lasagna sheets from the freezer, cut into erratic ribbons. I pulled our biggest turnip and mandolined it into papery thin sheets, chopping the greens coarsely along with some mizuna that was beginning to bolt. Once the stock had simmered for an hour or so, I strained a bunch of it into another pot, added the turnip and chopped greens, and let it go a bit longer. I boiled the pasta in another pot for a few minutes, then put it all together, with a mountain of chopped scallions on top.

What made it extra special, though, were the containers of A) leftover ground beef, seasoned Mexicanly for the burritos we ate the night before, and B) some leftover garlic scape pesto. These both got stirred into the soup while it simmered. There was also C) a bit of rare lamb left from an even earlier meal, which I sliced thinly and tossed in each bowl before serving. There were no pictures, because the camera was all the way upstairs, but the point is that with a bag of a few wings and a bunch of random shit from the fridge and freezer I made a unique, never-to-be-repeated meal of significantly splendid flavor. It also opened up some space in the fridge, which is always nice.

Tonight, all those boiled wings and the leftover stock (mixed with the remaining finished soup) became the basis for yet another good meal. I strained some of the soup/stock into a pot and used it to cook some whole wheat couscous, then folded in a bunch of freshly-shelled peas and chiffonaded shiso and cilantro towards the end. I also threw in some green garlic and green coriander seeds for extra gardeny goodness.

Once cooked, I tossed it all with generous pours of olive oil and cider vinegar, lashings of salt and pepper, and a mountain of chopped greenery: puntarelle, arugula, fennel, parsley, basil, cilantro, shiso, and various other hapless herbs that I molested on my way through the garden. There was fresh cow’s milk cheese, the result of some too-old milk, and the chicken meat from the wings, and some fetching amaranth leaves, so that’s how the plate came together. To make the meat a little more official, I tossed it with lime juice and sriracha before mounding it on top of the ring-molded couscous pilaf thing, which was in turn perched on top of a schmear of cheese.

The result was much more suited to the summer heat than hot soup was. Folding the peas in at the end meant that they barely cooked, as did the greens, so the result was more tabbouleh than pilaf. This would work with any leftover meat, any grain, and any fresh garden vegetables and herbs. Any time of year, too, though I would serve it hotter and as a first course before some braisey, stewy thing in winter. It’s hard to think of a handsomer use for a seemingly thin lineup than this. Also, too: ring molds make the most half-assed concoction seem downright classy.

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One Comment

  1. Carla B.
    July 1
    Reply

    Uh, will somebody please fetch a wet rag? There’s spam on this blog.

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