While Matt was cleaning those crappie from Saturday’s fishing trip, I had a seedling of an idea. I asked him to let me have them, that I wanted them for something. As he often does, Matt looked at me like I was a crazy person. Perhaps I am a little bit, wanting to keep fish heads and skeletons.
Well, that seedling of an idea was to make fish stock. But it quickly blossomed into something more than simple fish stock. I wanted to make miso soup. From scratch. With fish I helped catch.
First things first: miso soup needs a base of dashi stock. This is made from dried konbu seaweed and dried, shaved bonito- a fish related to mackerel and tuna. Their meat is somewhat dark in color, and they’re an ocean fish. My little crappies are very lean, light freshwater fish. If I’ve learned one thing being a person who 1. tends to do adventurous cooking when it’s late at night and cold and who 2. doesn’t always plan ahead and sometimes hates leaving the house, it’s that if you’re going to be making wild substitutions, you’d best be sticking firmly to the technique. So I took the crappie carcasses I kept and cleaned (beheaded and gutted) and a couple fillets and stuck em in my dehydrator. They’d take roughly 3 hours to get good and dry, so I headed out into the cold on Sunday to procure some exotic supplies I didn’t have to hand.
We have a wonderful chain of employee-owned grocery stores in northern Illinois and Wisconsin called Woodman’s. They carry allllll kinds of food and tend to be enormous, with excellent east Asian/Indian/Kosher/Hispanic food sections. Well, I got some tofu there, and the fixin’s for some fish tacos, but it turns out mine carries neither konbu nor shiro miso paste. So I did some quick google-fu on my phone, and found that there was an Asian grocery nearby. I gathered my courage and headed over. Unable to read the characters of any Asian language, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, or otherwise, I proceeded to get very lost in the Asian supermarket. The very, very kind owner eventually helped me out, but now I know where to go if I ever want beef tendons in bulk, dried jellyfish, or copious amounts of wonderful, wonderful snacks and Aloe Drink.
Shredded konbu, slightly different than the sliced, dried squares
Delicious, delicious miso paste.
So I returned with my haul, and got to work. Dashi is a much simpler process than I realized- you boil the konbu in the water, and once the konbu is soft, you add the fish and kill the heat. While the water and seaweed heated, I pulled the fish off the dehydrator.
Crispy dried crappie
I shredded that, and once the konbu had softened a bit, tossed it all in and killed the heat. I then let it sit till mostly cooled, and strained it into a container. It was already night time, and the rest of the soup making would wait until Monday afternoon.
Dried fish in the konbu tea.
A little over 50 oz dashi
The next day, I got it out, and began heating it on the stove. While I did that, I sliced some green onions and began working with something you seldom see in my kitchen.
Hard to open packaging.
It’s just. So. Weird.
They call it bean curd. You know what that means? Cheese made from soymilk, basically.
Cubed pressed soy cheese curd and sliced green onions.
So, once the dashi boiled, it was time to add the miso. The side of the miso package said one tablespoon for every 3/4 cup soup desired. After some math, I came up with approx 8 tablespoons, but that sounded like a lot. I put in 4, tasted it, and put in a 5th tablespoon. Perfect. Time to simmer slowly for a bit, then add the tofu.
At this point, I would have really liked some dried mushrooms to reconstitute in the soup, but you recall my troubles in the Asian market. “Dried black fungus” in bags wasn’t the most helpful thing in the world. Maybe next time I’ll be brave in the name of fungi.
I could find only shredded konbu, remember. It tasted the same still.
Green onions went on in the bowl. And the taste? This could have been made in a Japanese restaurant, except I pulled part of the original ingredients out of a frozen lake with my own two hands.
I had this for lunch, but it made such a big batch I had some with dinner. Dinner was venison fried rice.
A wild meal: Crappie miso and venison fried rice.
The high today in southern Wisconsin was -16. Near -40F with the wind. A steaming bowl of miso soup was just the thing to warm up with.