So, what do you do with a duck carcass in your refrigerator? According to Gwyneth Paltrow, you make soup out of it. Thankfully, I had just finished cooking a whole duck, so the time had come. Let’s make Duck Broth With Soba.
Gwyneth introduces this recipe with the braggy story of its inspiration. “Whenever I would come home from some far-flung movie location,” she informs me, she would head to the New York restaurant Honmura An (formerly just down the street from where I work, in fact) to enjoy their handmade soba noodles. Sadly, the restaurant closed when the “welcoming owner,” Koichi, moved back to Japan, and apparently Gwyneth has been in search of decent soba noodles ever since. Walking the Earth, aimless and forlorn, with an aching desperation for soba that will never be satisfied again.
So, to recap, Gwyneth ate at a really nice restaurant, where she learned something hundreds of millions of people already know: soba noodles are good. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to make soba noodles by hand yet (I get a sinking feeling as I realize I’ll probably be forced to make handmade soba noodles in book three), but she assures me the “organic packaged variety” is still pretty great. Look for buckwheat flour, not white flour, because we are Healthy.
To make the soup, I retrieved my gross, picked-over, sodden gray duck carcass from my fridge, and shoved it into my largest pot. I also threw in some other basic-ass broth ingredients: garlic, ginger, herbs, onion, like two spices, etc. Covered it with water, brought it to a boil, lowered it and let it simmer for a few hours. I realized I actually love making broths. Throwing semi-random fistfuls of basically garbage into a bubbling pot of water on your stovetop, watching the water go from clear to milky brown, the water leeching the flavor from the bobbing ingredients like this project leeches the money out of my wallet. I hadn’t made a broth since I quit the project a few years ago, and I hadn’t realized how I’d kind of missed it. You feel like a witch, making a broth. Like a poisoner.
Once the broth was ready to go and the ingredients were strained out of it, I cooked the soba noodles according to their instructions. To finish the “soup,” I stirred some miso paste with a ladleful of the broth, returning the mixture to the full pot of broth. I tasted it, it didn’t taste like much, so I added more miso. It tasted a little better, I guess. And with a little more miso, a little better. Still, it was clear there wasn’t going to be much flavor in this soup. I ran out of miso.
To serve I put a pile of soba noodles in a bowl and ladled the broth over it, sprinkling the bowl with cilantro, scallions, and enoki mushrooms. That’s when I realized: uh oh, this isn’t, like, a meal. To be fair to Gwyneth, she never said it was a meal. I don’t know why I decided it would be enough for dinner. But, with the duck carcass taking up a lot of room in my fridge until now, I didn’t really have anything else to make.
We sat to eat and I could tell Justin was as dissatisfied as I was. This is dinner? This vaguely duck-flavored hot water? Because that’s all it was. Very very slightly-spiced duck water, with noodles and enoki mushrooms, probably the least-satisfying mushrooms on the planet. At least they look pretty. I should have Instagrammed the bowl, probably.
“This is food for people who don’t poop,” I said, slurping my stupid brothy noodles.
We ate a bowl or two each, and then ordered delivery.
Pssssst: did you know I have a Tinyletter now? Sign up for it to get non-Gwyneth writing from me from time to time in your inbox. Check out the archives to see what you’ve missed. The last one was about a reality show from 2003, the next one will probably be equally dumb. Okay bye.