An Incredibly Rare Occurrence
70 degrees in Chicago in December? Yep, rare indeed. My wife and I in the same town with no deadlines, no airport to run to, and absolutely nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon? Well? In fact, unheard of. And precious. We have none of our four children, today. We have read the Times. Finished a novel, each. And I cannot promise that a rainy Sunday afternoon movie is not in store. But first, may I wax poetic about...
This recipe was inspired by a walk past a new Asian market on East 32nd Street between Fifth and Broadway, where in the frozen section I stumbled upon a small plastic bag with a dozen of aforementioned balls. I have flown 12,000 miles and walked a dusty road in Mae Hong Son just to find this delicacy, sold from a street cart where all you could do was point at the ingredients and pray.
Part two – the piece de resistance for this weekend chef – a bag of bones. Yes, fish bones. Behold.
Disgusting? Oui. Being handed out for free by the Montauk fishmonger at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market on a late autumn weekend. How could I say no?!
Hence the pieces came together. It's Saturday night. Your wife's in Rwanda. The kids are out. The sauvignon blanc has a nice crisp chill. Got your balls in the freezer and your bones in a bag? What else to do but try something new.
The recipe is so simple it is scary. Add water and a little white wine to cover the bones. Toss in chopped celery, onions, clams, mussels, aromatics, a bay leaf, peppercorns: basically the kitchen sink will do. Simmer for 45 minutes. Not more, not less. Every web recipe (for where else would you look when saddled with a bag of bones?) warned that fish stock will turn bitter if cooked too long. I measured nothing but tasted often. Out went the bones at precisely the right moment.
The rest was easy. Strain the broth. Add a couple of packets of chewy fresh udon noodles, also from the Asian market. Toss in the balls and simmer for 10 minutes. Dump on the chopped green onion and cilantro. Add sriracha or fish sauce to taste. The end result? Pure bliss!