My season is done. There will be no traveling down south to get in one last weekend chasing birds in late-closing states.
This is when I take stock of the remains in the freezer and get to work, making stock.
The remains are bones. Bird bones. I collect them all season, in freezer bags, until I have time to boil them up.
This year my collection included skeletal remains of chukar, quail and pheasant. I also had a pair of turkey femurs left over from the smoked drumsticks I used to make Thanksgiving gravy.
The bones went in the pot along with a mirepoix (carrots, celery, onions) some garlic, pepper and parsley stems. I sometimes add orange peel when I have it, but citrus pushes the flavor profile of stock in an Asian direction, so usually I leave it out of the big stock pot. Smaller quantities of the stock can be flavored with orange peel when appropriate.
Some of the bones are cooked. Others are raw so they are browned in the oven before they join the stock pot. It all simmers for a couple hours. Skim off the scum as it forms. After a half hour or so it stops.
The resulting stock is tasty, albeit a little thin. In the off season I make a pot of stock from the bones of a pair of rotisserie chickens. I include the chicken skin because it contributes enough collagen so that the resulting stock sets up like gelatin in the fridge.
The fat, or schmaltz, that congeals on top of the stock can be scraped off. Save it. It’s perfect for frying potatoes.
I reduce wild bird stock before I cool it and put it up in smaller quart containers for the freezer. This is why I never salt stock until it arrives at its final destination — usually as the backbone for sauce or soup. Seasoning concentrates as you reduce and that may leave your dish too salty to enjoy.
I can be trendy when it comes to food, and there’s nothing trendier right now than ramen.
The good stuff is made from quality stock and great noodles. And by great, I don’t mean those deep-fried noodle bricks that come in the 10-for-a-buck packages that keep starving college students alive between paychecks.
First the soup.
As mentioned, my wild bird stock has great flavor, but lacks body. To compensate, I let it reduce a little more while it reheats. I also add some flavor enhancers. In goes more garlic and a few thumbs of fresh ginger. This is also the time to add orange peel.
When I’m feeling motivated, I use a potato peeler to remove just the zest, but not the bitter pith, from oranges. Those peels get their own bag in the freezer. Just a few pieces adds a nice orangey zip.
My most important enhancer, however, is miso. I keep a tub of this fermented soybean paste in the fridge and continue to find uses for it. A couple tablespoons dissolved in the pot gives the soup a umami boost, body, and it begins to season my still unsalted soup.
Noodles are key to good ramen. Make your own when you can. A stand mixer with pasta attachments is pretty much required as the dough is dry and quite stiff. It also needs some alkali to give the noodles their characteristic chew. I add sodium carbonate.
You can also buy fresh-and-frozen, or dried but not fried, noodles online.
Go wild with toppings. I cook sautéed mushrooms with tomato paste. It’s another umami bomb. For protein, put away the chashu pork. In this ramen there’s nothing better than confit leg of pheasant.
Wrap up the winged theme with a soft boiled egg. It’s time to get birdy.
Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.
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