I’ve developed an unfortunate habit. It’s quite embarrassing, really, but still I persist:
I want your bones. All of them. The bigger the better. I will probably ask for yours in public. Please don’t try to fight it.
Perhaps I should explain.
In the last few months, I’ve formed a tiny obsession with homemade stocks. The understanding that bones + water + vegetables + herbs + time = liquid splendor has been revelatory. I don’t fuss over details: I use the bones, herbs and vegetables I have on hand. This way, each batch is slightly different, but always wonderful. I freeze the results in ice cube trays, and use what I need for soups, pan sauces, risotto, rice. Good stock gives new life to vegetables, mashed potatoes and leftovers alike.
Those boxes at the supermarket masquerading as stock have no business calling themselves such compared to what you can make at home. Do you know why the supermarket variety is full of salt? It’s because otherwise they’d be flavorless. Homemade stock, brewed with quality base materials, requires no salt at all.
Here are some factoids: bones are full of nutrients. As in, they are seriously good for you. They are also full of gelatin, which acts as a thickening agent. Gelatin is released from bones when they are heated low and slow. Remember this: soup should be thickened with gelatin from good stock, not from flour or cornstarch.
Roasted bones, it is said, make the richest, darkest, tastiest stocks. But my kitchen ambitions have limits. At least for now, I’ve determined that roasting my own bones is just too much work. This is where my awkward line of questioning comes in. I simply time my stock-making to my restaurant visits: “Friend, is that a steak/pork chop/chicken drumstick I spy on your plate? Please enjoy it! I hope it is delicious. Oh I’m sorry, what’s that? You won’t be consuming all those pre-roasted bones? Well then, let me take them off your hands, don’t mind if I do.”
The first time I pulled this, the Frenchman and I were out to dinner with friends. Two orders of pork chops and a half chicken later, the waiter asked if he could clear our plates. Using my pointer finger, I drew a wide circle around all the bone-filled dishes. “Could you just wrap up all the bones for me?” He looked at me as if worried for my sanity. “Uhm,” he said, “Why don’t I just bring you a box..”
Last night, at my graduation party, I drank a lot of Prosecco. After that, some wine, for good measure. I then proceeded to ask at least two tables of friends and family for their leftover bones. I got a lot of strange looks. But who now has a full sirloin steak in her refrigerator? That would be this girl.
The only problem is, it’s really hot outside. It is summer, after all. The idea of using the stove was unappealing. So, I cut the steak paper thin, and threw those bones into the freezer for another day. I diced up some vegetables, and mixed together a creamy, tangy sauce of garlic, ginger, tahini and chili flakes to coat some cold noodles.
This dressing mellows over time. It will be sharp-ish if you eat it right away, but will settle into itself if you store it in the fridge for a few hours, or haul it along to a picnic.
- 1 nub of ginger (about half a thumb’s length)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons tahini
- 1.5 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 6 scallions
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 240 grams Udon noodles (or another flat noodle, like linguine)
- 8 ounces leftover (sirloin) steak (you could also use roast beef)
Make the sauce:
1. Run the ginger and both cloves of garlic through a microplane grater (or the finest grater you have), straight into a medium-sized bowl.
2. Add the sugar, and stir it into the ginger/garlic paste. Add the rice vinegar next, and then the soy sauce. With each new ingredient, stir to combine.
3. Add the tahini, stir, and then add the sesame oil. Mix everything until smooth, and then set the sauce aside.
Toast the sesame seeds:
1. Empty your sesame seeds into a medium, non-stick pan. Heat them over medium-low, jostling the seeds around every minute or so for about 5 minutes. They are done when turn from white to light brown, and take on a slightly toasty smell.
Cut the Vegetables:
1. Using the 1/4-inch setting on a mandolin, slice up the cucumber. You can cut the cucumber rounds in half, or keep them as they are. (You could also thinly slice the cucumber with a knife, if you don’t have a mandolin.)
2. Peel and julienne the carrot. (Again, if you don’t have a mandolin, you can just slice up the carrot how you like.)
1. Empty the pepper flakes into a mortar and pestle, and give them a good grind.
2. Cook your noodles based on the package instructions. As soon as they finish cooking, empty them into a colander. Rinse under cold water until the noodles are no longer warm.
3. Meanwhile, slice up the steak as thinly as possible.
4. Toss together the noodles, the sauce, the sesame seeds, the vegetables, the pepper flakes and the steak. Serve immediately, or cover and chill in the fridge for later enjoyment.