Cooking Pho

A much delayed cooking story due to life getting in the way. This is a recipe we made back in March.

Since moving to the West Coast, one of my favorite foods has become pho. It combines some of the things I loves about other styles of food: it has a good broth, usually has copious amounts of tender meat, and often is quite spicy.

When we went to Vietnam for our honeymoon, one of the first things we did was take a food tour of Hanoi (the northern capital of the country). The tour gave us some insight into the making of a traditional pho, as well as a chance to taste the numerous different varieties offered by different street vendors.  I enjoyed it so much I almost exclusively ate pho from street stalls during our trip.

There are some decent pho places near where we live (outside of Seattle), and occasionally Michelle grudgingly agrees to relive the honeymoon glory days.  I really enjoy cooking, even though I am pretty sub-par at it.  I like finding new recipes and at least giving them a shot.  Well one of my friends sent me a link discussing how to prepare a good pho, and I was intrigued.  It looked fun! And intense.

The intimidating thing about pho is preparing a decent broth. Each street vendor in Vietnam has a secret family recipe/technique (well maybe not, but that’s how they sell it) passed down from generation to generation. It involves simmering a unique combination of spices, vegetables, and meats for hours. It also involves painstakingly skimming the broth from time to time to keep it free of any impurities.

We took the recipe from the Serious Eats, and hit up our local Asian market.  Even if the pho wasn’t the best we ever had, the excuse to go to the Asian market was definitely worth it. It’s a whole other world culturally, and it’s just right down the street.  So this recipe was a fun adventure in both shopping and cooking.  Without further ado, a Drayer take on pho:

Ingredients:

  • Two yellow onions
  • One clove of garlic
  • One large chunk of ginger
  • Whole star anise (I used 5)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce – I would add more. (This is especially important as all of Vietnam smells like fish sauce. Which in my opinion is one of the most disgusting smells in the world. But also indicative of authentic Vietnamese food. I knew I was on the right track when the whole house smelled bad.)
  • One teaspoon fennel seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Two tablespoons of white rock sugar – I would add more. (We had to go to the Asian market for this one.)
  • One serrano pepper
  • One jalapeño
  • I would add one habanero (I think a perfect pho is spicy enough to clear your sinuses, but I also love Michelle – it’s a hard life full of tough decisions. Michelle won out on this one.)
  • One stick cinnamon
  • Three cloves
  • Salt to taste (I hate recipes that call for salt to taste.  At least give me a reference point!  I would recommend starting with one tablespoon and go from there.)
  • One pound beef brisket – this is a debatable addition. It is expensive and doesn’t really add a ton in my opinion. Get more flavorful and cheaper meat cuts instead.
  • One pound beef chuck
  • Three pounds beef shin (Need to get that marrow!  Yum yum. This was easier to find at the Asian market.)
  • Two pounds oxtail (This is the best part in my opinion. Frozen oxtail was available at our regular grocery store, but the Asian market had some great looking fresh oxtail that I think would have been better)
  • Any other meat you think would be fun and/or would contribute to a rich flavor to your broth. The fun thing about pho is you can make it up as you go and it will probably still turn out alright. The “cheap” cuts actually are pretty great for the broth as they often have a lot of flavor and you cook them for so long it doesn’t matter if they’re usually a tough cut.
  • Pho noodles (We had to go the Asian market for this. Also note that pho noodles need to be soaked for quite a while before a quick cook. Don’t leave this until you’re ready to eat or you will be disappointed…like us.)
  • Garnishes as desired
    • Hoisin sauce
    • Sriracha
    • Cilantro (This is required in my book. If you don’t like cilantro I’m not sure I can trust you.)
    • Mint
    • Bean sprouts (The sprouts we got were bitter and not good at all, border line ruining our pho. I strongly recommend tasting the sprouts before adding them willy nilly to your broth! Also we couldn’t find this at our local grocery.)

Actual preparation:

  1. Char the onions, ginger and garlic. I did this on a gas grill and it worked great. Basically just throw this stuff on the grill on high, turning occasionally for about 25 min. Everything should be blackened for best results. For the real deal you should char your add ins over an open flame but who has time for that.
  2. Clean the meat.  You can do this by putting the meat into a big pot of water and bring it to a boil for a few minutes (you don’t want to cook the meat just break up cartilage). After the meat cools you can rinse and scrub off any debris.
  3. Start your broth! You do this by throwing in your meat and other add ins like the onion, salt, fish sauce, cloves, cinnamon, etc. into a big pot of clean water. Simmer for about an hour and a half. Exact time isn’t super important. After an hour and half you can pull out any nicer cuts of meat such as brisket and chuck. You can cool those and save for later.
  4. Continue making that broth. I would simmer for another 4-5 hours. During this time use a strainer or something similar to take off the top layer of gunk and cartilage that will form. After 4-5 hours you can take the broth off the heat, remove all the aromatics, and strain till broth is clean.
  5. Add any last minute seasoning: fish sauce, salt, pepper, etc.
  6. Prepare pho noodles. PLEASE NOTE: these can take upward of an hour to re-hydrate!img_5925.jpg
  7. Serve your pho over noodles. Include any fun add ins you want like cilantro, jalapenos, the nice cuts of meat you set aside, sriracha, bean sprouts (though I don’t recommend these), etc.
  8. Be both disappointed that it doesn’t live up to restaurant standards and also impressed that you pulled it off, and it tastes pretty good.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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Biscuits & Gravy

Prep & Cook Time: 60 minutes

Feeds: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 c butter
  • 6 T flour
  • 4 c milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 package spicy breakfast sausage
  • 1 habanero/serrano
  • 1 can buttermilk biscuits
Cover chicken with water in saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook for 20 minutes, drain, cool, and shred. Set aside. Cook spicy sausage. Drain and set aside. Saute butter and habanero/serrano in a large saucepan; cook pepper until tender. Add flour, whisking until creamy. Add milk, salt and pepper; heat to thicken, stirring constantly. Combine chicken and sausage with mixture; heat through. Bake biscuits as directed. Serve chicken and gravy over hot biscuits.

Crockpot Thai Chicken Peanut Curry

This recipe is only 227 calories per one cup serving for all of you working on those New Year’s resolutions!

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Feeds: 4-6 people. Yields 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chicken
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) of coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 2-4 tablespoons red chili paste
  • 1/2 can water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 habanero, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups stir fry veggies
  • optional garnish: cilantro
  • optional garnish: green onion
  • optional garnish: peanuts


Place all ingredients, except for the veggies in crockpot and cook for 6-8 hours on low. My grocery store doesn’t stock red chili paste so I make my own – tbl coconut oil + tsp chili powder + tsp garlic + tsp salt + tsp pepper. Add the veggies for the last 20 minutes. I would recommend serving over rice!

Chicken Noodle Casserole

This recipe is only 227 calories per one cup serving for all of you working on those New Year’s resolutions!

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Feeds: 8-12 people. Yields 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. egg noodles
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 stick butter, divided
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1.5 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Cook egg noodles and chicken breasts.
I simmered the chicken in
chicken stock.

Let chicken rest and then cut into bit size pieces. Spray 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine noodles, chicken, half of butter, and soup in pan.

Melt remaining butter and combine with bread crumbs. Top casserole with the bread
crumb mixture and cheese.

Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes until top is bubbly.


Pumpkin Bread

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Feeds: 6-8 people. Yields 2 large loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2  cups pumpkin
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)


Combine all dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients. Fold in optional ingredients Mix until smooth and pour into 2 greased 9×5 inch pans. Baked at 350°F for about 1 hour (until toothpick comes out clean).

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

The perfect fall dessert – a combination of cheesecake and pumpkin pie! (I have made this three times in the past 2 months…)

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Feeds: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 ground cloves
  • 1/8 ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time. Pour one cup of batter into crust.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into remaining batter. Stir gently until well blended. Spread over the cheesecake batter in crust.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until center is almost set. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for 3-12 hours. Top with whipped topping before serving.

Grandma’s Notre Dame Chili

Every fall from almost birth until I was in my early 20s, my family made the annual pilgrimage to Notre Dame for a football game. We would stay at my Aunt Margaret’s house, and as the sun rose on Saturday morning, a few of us would climb in the motor home and drive to the tailgate lot to stake out our usual spot. Grandma would always have made enough food to feed the army that would stop by the tailgate for a few minutes or hours before and after the game. There were always coffee cakes, sandwiches, cookies, cheesecake, lemon bars, chips and dip, etc. The two foods that I would always make sure to eat, though, were Grandma’s Notre Dame Baked Beans and Grandma’s Notre Dame Chili.

My grandma is in town helping with the babies, and Seattle has been having the perfect fall weather, so it seemed like a great time for chili. Trying to get grandma to give me the recipe was like pulling teeth, as she has been making it forever and doesn’t measure.

Prep Time: 20-30 min.

Feeds:

Ingredients:precooked chili.JPG

  • 1.5 ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 can dark kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can light kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can chili beans in chili sauce
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can Mexican style tomatoes
  • 2 packets chili mix
  • Extra chili powder to taste
  • Optional: shredded cheese and crackers

Cook ground beef on the stove. Then drain it and add it to the crockpot. Drain the kidney beans and add them, as well. I usually rinse my beans so that I get less of the sodium. Add the chili beans, tomatoes, and chili packets. If you would like a little more kick, add chili powder. Stir it all together and set the crockpot for 6-8 hours on low. Serve as is or topped with cheese and crackers. 

Crockpot Chicken Stroganoff

Prep Time: ~10 minutes

Feeds: 6-8 people

Ingredients:crockpot-chicken-stroganoff

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • 15 ounce cream of mushroom soup (or substitute cream of celery or cream of chicken)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • pepper to taste
  • egg noodles

Place chicken breast in crockpot. Cover with cream of mushroom, sour cream, pepper, and onion soup mix. Cook 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Prepare noodles on the stove, then serve stroganoff over noodles.

 

 

Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken

Prep Time: ~10 minutes

Feeds: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds chicken breast
  • 15 ounce can sweet corn, drained
  • 15 ounce can beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 8- 15 ounces salsa

Place chicken in crockpot. I used 4 large breasts, but it depends on how thick you want your meal to be. Pour corn, beans, salsa, and cream cheese over chicken. Usually the recipe calls for black beans, but I used kidney beans because it is what I had in the pantry. I used 8 ounces salsa. I cubed the cream cheese so it would melt in better. Set crockpot for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve in a burrito or over rice.

crockpot-santa-fe-chicken

NanaNette’s Lactation Cookies

Prep Time: ~25 minutes

Yields: about 6 dozen

Preheat oven to 350°F.cookies-2

Mix and set aside to add later

  • 3 tablespoons Flaxseed
  • 4 tablespoons of water

Mix

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 5 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar

cookies-5

Add to mixture

  • 2 eggs (mix in 1 at a time)
  • Flaxseed mixture (set aside from the earlier)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix in bowl (then add to mixture)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brewer’s yeast (found in supplement section or ordered online)

cookies-3

Mix in bowl (then add to mixture)

  • 3 cups oatmeal (I use 3minute)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Shredded coconut (I added approx. ¾ cup)
  • Slivered almonds (I added approx. ¾ cup)
  • Cook at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes

cookies-6