Vietnamese Pho Bo

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Pho is Vietnam’s famous noodle soup that has garnered a legion of devotees around the globe. Traditionally Pho is served first thing in the morning in Vietnam, but there are Pho stalls and shops that are open 24/7 across the country. Making Pho at home does require a lot of ingredients as well as time, so most Vietnamese frequent their local Pho shop for a quick meal on the go. This is a country on the move and in perpetual motion! The energy in the air is mind boggling at first, but then your realize there is an order in this symphony of chaos that envelopes you. Welcome to Vietnam!

Pho became popular during the French colonial period in the mid eighteen hundreds. The French colonists introduced beef into the Vietnamese diet as well as French cooking methods. Some speculate, myself included, that the French beef stew called pot- ou- feu was the likely source for the name Pho, pronounced “fuh”, which is very similar in sound to the French pot-ou-feu.

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Fortunately, these days Vietnamese restaurants serving Pho can be found in almost any city in the world. Of course you could use a Knorr Oxo beef broth sachet for a quick Pho, but taking the time to make a traditional Pho at home affords you the luxury of a well tended slow cooked broth that reflects the refined essence of this soups mystique. Hand selecting the other fresh ingredients that are added to the piping hot broth insures that the alluring aromas of this sublime Vietnamese soup fills the air as it arrives at the table.

I have to say Vietnamese food is the perfect cuisine for life in the tropics. It’s light, refreshing, cooling in the steamy hot months, and warming in the bracing monsoon and brief cool winter months.

Getting to it then, developing a perfect broth is the first step in mastering an authentic Pho. Traditional broths are poultry, meat, or seafood based, but a vegetarian broth is doable with thoughful seasoning. The Pho Bo I have made here uses a beef based broth, but feel free to substitute a chicken, pork, or vegetable broth if you like. With a well developed broth you are free to create endless variations of this Vietnamese classic.

 

Vietnamese Pho Bo:    serves 6 to 8

Nuoc Dung Bo ( beef broth)  : makes 3 liters

I like to make the broth in advance. You can then cool it, cover, and refrigerate until needed, or freeze it for later use.

  • 6 liters water
  • 3 pounds beef bones
  • 1 hand of ginger root, (unpeeled)
  • 3 medium onions, unpeeled
  • 6 whole star anise 
  • 4  four inch cinnamon sticks (Vietnamese if available)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • a pinch or more of ground Saigon cinnamon (click here) to taste

Place the beef bones on a grill or under the broiler in your oven and brown the bones on all sides. Transfer the bones to a large stock pot and set aside.

Fire up a grill or place a rack directly over an open flame on the stove top. Flame roast the hand of ginger with skin on until it is well charred on all sides. Brush off excess charred bits, break the hand apart into fingers and add them to the stock pot.

Remove excess papery skin from the onions and cut them in half. Grill or flame roast the onions, unpeeled, until they are charred on all sides. Brush off excess charred bits and add them to the stock pot.

Fill the stock pot with the water and add the star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, fennel seeds, peppercorns, sugar, and salt. Partially cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Uncover and stir. Then reduce the heat until the liquid is just gently simmering. Simmer for 2 ½ hours or until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn off the heat and set aside for an hour or so to cool. Then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard all the solids and set the broth aside until you are ready to assemble the Pho, or transfer to containers with lids and refrigerate. As you will probably have more broth than you will need you may want to freeze the rest of the broth.

Beef:

preheat the oven to 400 f/200 c

  • 1 pound good quality beef round or filet
  • flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fish sauce

Salt and pepper the beef on all sides. Gently rub the beef with fish sauce and place it in a preheated sizzling hot skillet. Quickly sear the beef on all sides and transfer to a roasting pan.

Put the beef in the oven and roast for no more than 12 minutes. You want the beef to be very rare in the center. Promptly remove ifrom the oven, cover lightly with foil, and cool to room temperature.

Just before you are ready to serve the Pho  slice the beef as thinly as possible across the grain. Place the slices on a plate and set aside. The beef slices will be slipped into the Pho right before serving.

Noodles:

  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli or 1 pound thin Chinese egg noodles, fresh or dried.

If you are using rice noddles soak them in cold water for 20 minutes. When you are ready to assemble the soup place the soaked vermicelli in a wire mesh basket and lower them into the simmering broth for about 30 seconds and then transfer them to individual bowls, add broth and other ingredients, and serve.

If you are using Chinese egg noodles boil them in a generous pot of salted water as you would pasta, cooked al dente. Transfer to bowls and add broth and other accompanying ingredients, and serve.

Fresh garnishes for Pho Bo: pickled mustars greens, ngo gai(saw tooth coriander), chilies, scallions, coriander and lime wedges,

Fresh garnishes for Pho Bo: pickled mustars greens, ngo gai(saw tooth coriander), chilies, scallions, coriander and lime wedges,

Accompaniments:

The following ingredients should be available in Asian markets. Gather all of the following accompaniments together,  lined up, and ready to add to the bowls of steaming hot Pho just before serving.

  • mung bean sprouts
  • coriander leaves
  • ngo gai (saw tooth coriander, if available), thinly sliced
  • Vietnamese/Thai sweet basil leaves
  • green scallions, thinly sliced
  • finely sliced fresh red chilies, to taste Best to remove the seeds before chopping.
  • pickled mustard greens (du chua)
  • Saigon cinnamon (if available)
  • Lime wedges
  • fish sauce (nuoc mam/nam pla

Serving:

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding fish sauce and/ or salt, and a pinch or 2 of Saigon cinnamon to your liking. Then bring the broth to a full boil.

Place warmed noodles into individual bowls and ladle broth over the noodles to cover generously. Garnish with bean sprouts, sliced ngo gai (if using), basil leaves, sliced scallions, and some finely sliced red chilies. 

Slip 4 or 5 slices of the thinly sliced beef into each bowl and serve.

Place bowls of sliced pickled mustard greens, grated ginger, finely sliced red chilies, and lime wedges on the table along with a platter or bowl laden with all the leafy garnishes on the table for adding to each individuals tastes. Be sure to have a dispenser of the ubiquitous nuoc mam/ nam pla  (fish sauce) on the table as well.

Bon appetite!

 MoroccanSpiced Lemon Chicken

MoroccanSpiced Lemon Chicken

 

Moroccan food is a perfect choice to serve for a casual supper for a crowd. The aromas, flavors, and colors of the Maghreb all magically spring to life right in front of your guests eyes. For me Moroccan food satisfies all the hallmarks of a truly world class cuisine as well as being food that almost anyone can master right at home in their own kitchen. Like other regional Mediterranean cuisines the emphasis in Moroccan cookery relies on traditional foods and flavors that highlight locally grown produce along with a modest, but assertive, use of poultry, meats, and fish. Harissa is then the tie that binds any Moroccan meal together.

 

Harissa’s is a rich earthy red chile laced sauce found all over Morocco. (see recipe here). Always on hand in my kitchen as it will most likely be in yours once you have tasted it. Make your own. I promise you, you will become addicted.

 

Moroccan meal with Spiced Lemon chicken

Moroccan food really is easy to prepare, mostly in advance, with only a few final flourish that won’t leave you frazzled and exhausted just as your guests arrive. I have included the menu for a Moroccan supper for twelve that I recently cooked for a friend’s birthday party. The flavors of Morocco were duly relished by all!

Summer Moroccan Supper

Hummus (see recipe here) with Bread Sticks

Spiced Moroccan Lemon Chicken

Harissa

Roasted Pumpkin with Red Onions & Roasted Spiced Cauliflower

Couscous

Smoked Eggplant with Garlic Flat bread

Dessert

Fresh cherry frangipane Tart (see recipe here)

 

Moroccan Spiced Lemon chicken     serves 4

  • 4 boneless organic chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon toasted black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika (Spanish if available)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon chile flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups stock (or water)
  • 1 lemon 1 tablespoon honey
  • roasted red chile strips (optional)

In a large non-reactive bowl combine the onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, paprika, chile flakes, 1 teaspoons sea salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix until combined.

Add the chicken thighs to the bowl and massage the marinade into the thighs. Flatten the contents of the bowl so the thighs are completely submerged in the marinade. Cover with cling film and set aside for at least an hour or refrigerate for several hours.

Trim the ends off the lemon and thinly slice the lemon crosswise into rounds. Place the rounds in a skillet in a single layer and add water to just cover. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place the skillet over medium heat and Simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the stove and drain off the water. Drizzle the honey over the slices and set aside to use later.

Preheat the oven to 400 f / 200 c Adjust the oven rack to the upper half of the oven.

Bring the marinated thighs to room temperature if they have been refrigerated.

Place the thighs, skin side up, in a deep baking tray or oven proof dish. Pat the remaining marinade over and around the sides of the thighs. Add enough stock to the tray to come about half way up the sides of the thighs. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Divide the prepared lemon slices in half.

Open the oven, rotate the tray, and place lemon slices on top of thighs. Garnish each thigh with strips of roast red chiles (optional). Close the oven door and roast another 15 minutes.

Then remove the tray from the oven and pour the remaining cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Cover the chicken lightly with foil and set aside to rest.

Place the saucepan of cooking liquid on the stove top and add an additional cup of stock to the pan. Set the pan over medium high heat and cook until reduced by half.

Serving:

Plate the thighs and spoon pan juices over the thighs.

As suggested, serve with roasted pumpkin (see recipe here) and spiced roasted cauliflower (or other seasonal vegetables), couscous, and harissa as pictured. Place the reduced pan juices in a bowl placed on the table for ladling over all.

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Tart

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Tart

 

It’s cherry season in the northern hemisphere judging from the abundance of fresh cherries from the US and Canada that are available in the supermarkets here in Thailand at the moment. Cherries do not grow in the tropics so they are a real indulgence that is well worth savoring, if ever so briefly.

As a cook, what immediately came to mind was making a classic Italian/ French fresh cherry frangipane tart. Making tarts can get complicated, but this tart is relatively easy to make and beautifully showcases the plump whole fresh cherries nestled into a frangipane (almond flvored) cream and baked until golden brown. The scent of almonds wafting through the kitchen seductively compliments the juicy sweet tartness of the gently softened cherries.

 

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Cherry Tart

Fresh Cherry Frangipane Cherry Tart

 

Bing cherries are your best choice for a fragipane tart. They are plump, firm, deeply colored, and have a crisp sweet sourness. To pit or not to pit the cherries? Some cooks do not, but pitting the cherries requires so little effort.  Cherry/olive pitters are available online, worth the small investment, and will last a lifetime.

Other fresh stone fruits you may want to try for this recipe include apricots, nectarines, plums, or peaches.

 

Fresh Cherry Frangipani Tart     makes a 9 inch tart

Cherry/ Olive pitter

Cherry/ Olive pitter

Prepared ahead:

  • Your favorite pasty dough, well chilled, rolled out, and fitted into a 9 inch tart pan.
  • 18 oz/ 500 g fresh dark red (Bing) cherries, stems and pits removed

 

Frangipani Cream:

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 3 ½ oz/ 100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons rum
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons light colored jam for glazing

Place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor and blitz until the almonds have been reduced to a stone ground flour like consistency.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the butter is creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Once again scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Then add the salt, rum, and almond extract. Mix until combined. Then add the egg and milk and mix until light and fluffy.

If you are not using the frangipane cream right away, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to bring the cream to room temperature before assembling the tart.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 f/180 c

 

Assembling the tart:

Remove the pastry lined tart pan from the refrigerator and spoon the frangipane cream into the trat shell and even out the surface with a silicone spatula.

Arrange the pitted cherries over the entire surface of the tart, pressing ever so gently so the cream just anchors the cherries in place.

Transfer the tart to the oven and bake until the pastry crust is lightly browned and frangipane cream has puffed up and golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the tart after the first 30 minutes to insure even baking.

While the tart is baking heat the jam in a small pan until melted, strain out the solids, and set aside.

When the tart is done transfer to a cooling rack. Brush the glaze over the top of the tart and cool to room temperature.

Serve cut into wedges. This tart needs no flourishes. Beautiful just s it is.

 

Pork Tenderloin with Whiskey Caramelized Onions on Ciabatta

Pork Tenderloin with Whiskey Caramelized Onions on Ciabatta

 

This post came about serendipitously via a friend’s request for a recipe for Pork Loin with Whiskey Caramelized Onions on Baguette that Antoni Porowski prepared on Queer Eye‘s reboot on Netflix series 1; episode 5.  Antoni is the Fab 5’s food and wine expert who breezes through some easy food preparations for the novice cook faced with entertaining at home. There are no recipes mentioned nor much attention to “how to” procedures. This has stirred up some speculation about Antoni’s actual cooking acumen, but he has a captivated legion of fans, a cookbook coming out in 2019, and says he’s opening his own restaurant in New York. You can’t argue with success!

I’m always up for a cooking challenge, so I read some comments about this particular dish from the series and put together the recipes for the required components. I decided to include a honey mustard sage vinaigrette that was not featured in the series, but adds a much needed taste bite to bring the whole concept to life. 

As pictured, tender thinly sliced fennel scented pork tenderloin is layered on toasted slices of ciabatta smeared with a sage honey mustard vinaigrette. Topping the pork loin are deeply caramelized onions that, while not quite as easy as Antoni’s appeared to be, were well worth the extra effort. All said and done, my friend’s hunch turned out to be a perfect addition to a lively mid summer supper buffet.

 

Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Honey Sage Mustard Vinaigrette, and Whiskey Caramelized Onions

Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Honey Sage Mustard Vinaigrette, and Whiskey Caramelized Onions

 

Pork Tenderloin with Whiskey Caramelized Onions on Ciabatta    serves 10

For the pork tenderloin:

  • 3 pork tenderloins, silvery skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon flaked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Place the fennel seeds, peppercorns, and salt in a spice grinder and grind until powdery.

Pat the tenderloins dry with paper towels. Place on a tray and rub each tenderloin all over with the seasoning rub.

Place an oven proof a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove top. Add the oil and when hot add the pork loins and brown on all sides.

Then transfer the browned tenderloins to the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, loosely cover the pan with foil and set aside to cool.

When you are ready to serve, thinly slice the pork into medallions.

 

While the pork is roasting you can prepare the Whiskey Caramelized Onions.

  • 4 large yellow onions, skin removed, halved, and cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium red onion, skin removed, halved, and cut into thin slices
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the melting butter into the oil and than add the yellow and red onions, salt, and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed and continue to saute, frequently turning the onions, until they are soft and have turned a deep caramel color. Timing will vary, but about 10 to 15 minutes should do it. Then stir in the sugar and add the whiskey.

Continue to cook until the whiskey has evaporated and the onions have a moist lacquered like sheen. Transfer to a container and set aside to cool.

 

Sage Honey Mustard Vinaigrette:  makes 1 cup

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed sage leaves
  • 3 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil

Place the mustard, mustard powder, turmeric, sage, garlic ¾ teaspoon salt, pepper, honey, cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar in a small food processor and whir until the ingredients are combined. Then with the motor running add the oil in a slow steady stream until the vinaigrette is thick and smooth. Taste and add salt if needed and whir until completely mixed into the vinaigrette.

Transfer to a jar, cover with lid, and refrigerate.

 

Serving:

  • 4 to 5 ciabatta cut into ¼ inch slices lengthwise and toasted in the oven until just lightly browned around the edges.

Smear a thin layer of the vinaigrette on each slice of toasted ciabatta. Top the ciabatta with sliced medallions of the pork tenderloin and add clusters of caramelized onions on top of each slice. Add a small dabs of the vinaigrette atop of the onions and serve.

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