Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fish Stock!

A few weeks ago, Michael Pollan put an article in the New York Times Magazine. I like Michael Pollan's work, and find it informative and thought provoking. I recommend his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, to you, if you've not already read it. In the New York Times article, Pollan states that many of us don't cook anymore, except to heat things up - things like pre-packaged food. Interestingly, he notes the concurrent proliferation of armchair cooking - that Americans love to watch TV shows about cooking - shows like "Iron Chef". But that these shows are entertainment. They don't seek to teach us how to cook, as Julia Child did, in her PBS show of the 60s/70s. (I remember watching that show with my mom - I reacted the same way many others did - I was inspired that I, too, can cook! I figured, all I need is a sense of adventure and some ingredients. The worst thing that would happen is what I create is inedible - hardly a tragedy. And, since I started cooking for myself and my college friends in the 1980s, I've not had too many total, irreperable failures in the kitchen. That inspiration came from Julia. And it also came from my dad - who showed me from the time I was four years old, I could do pretty much anything I wanted. Of course, my dad's idea of adventure was me cutting the grass, putting up insulation, and cleaning the cars. But he also spent the entire summer of 1968 teaching me to water ski. He taught me to sail. He taught me to change the tire and oil on my 1972 Ford Pinto - I had to learn those things before I was allowed to drive. What with all that hard work, he gave me a pretty strong work ethic from that...and confidence. He was the toughest boss I've ever had. And that includes U.S. Army bosses, restaurant bosses, lawyer bosses, and on and on. None are ever even half as tough as dad was. When I told him that once, he shrugged it off - I don't think he believed me! I'll tell you about my mom later - she was just as influential, in different ways, to me and my two sisters as we were growing up.

Speaking of my dad - he caught some flounder yesterday, and saved me the bones. I have recently become enamored of the book, Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman. In this book, Ruhlman instructs us how to think about cooking. Not to think 'recipe', but to think logic, and ratio. I've been doing that, more or less, for over 25 years - I've never been one for following recipes. I use recipes as a base from which to riff my own food. Ruhlman's book takes my ideas much farther. He says that pretty much all cooking is based on basic ratios. Take bread. It's 5 parts flour (by weight) to 3 parts water. Then add yeast, salt, and so on. If you use the 3:5 ratio for bread, you'll get decent bread. It might not be earth shatteringly delicious, but it will be good. That's the basic idea behind the book. There's more, but you'll have to look at the book for yourself, because I want to move on to what I cooked today.

Stock. From the flounder bones my dad gave me.

Here's basically what I did to make fish stock:
Chop coarsely some onion and celery. Put in kettle with a little oil. "Sweat" the vegetables (on medium heat, with lid on) for about 5 to 10 minutes. Do not brown them.
Meanwhile, soak the fish bones in very cold water. (See below for a photo of my bones. My FISH bones, silly. Not mine.) Change the water a few times. This gets the blood out.
Drain the fish bones (after offering a bit of sushi to the cat), and add them to the vegetables. "Sweat" the bones with the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Then add water and other herbs (I used parsley and thyme, and a bay leaf, with one leaf of sage). Bring to just under a simmer. Don't boil. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Cool, and strain. Salt to taste. (If you wanted you could leave the fish bits and vegetables in there, you could...especially if making a fish stew... But I discarded my bone scraps since most of the nutrition and flavor has been leached out by the water.). Pretty darn tasty stock! I'm going to freeze my stock in 2 cup portions, and use it to cook rice, as a base for soup, to enrich my clam chowder, and so on.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Barb This is fabulous! You are an amazing gourmet chef! I broiled my fish tonight, thank you. Would you like to go to the Julia Childs movie?