Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday night Pho

The recipe for this meal is super long, so I'll keep my babbling to a minimum. I made stock early last week because, well, I don't have a reason why. My freezer is still pretty full, and I'll be getting a new third of a cow at the end of summer, so I need to get cookin', I guess. I wasn't sure what I was going to make with the stock, but I had pho in mind (see more on that below).

Pho is way easier than I thought it would be, though getting the broth just right is not easy (more on that below too).

Whatever, here's the recipe.

For beef stock:
2 medium yellow onions, chopped roughly
2 medium carrots, chopped roughly
4 stalks celery, chopped roughly
4-inch piece ginger, peeled
5-6 pounds beef soup bones (marrow and knuckle bones)
8 - 10 peppercorns

Note: the below is how I made my stock because I wasn't sure I was going to use it all for pho.  I made a semi-traditional brown stock.  To make a stock specifically for pho, do not roast the beef bones, do not add celery or carrots, and add 5 star anise, 6 whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick to the stock in the beginning.  If I was ever to make stock specifically for pho, I would probably make pork stock, actually.)

1. Roast the onion, carrot, celery, and ginger on a cookie sheet in the oven for 15 - 25 minutes. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. You do not have to blacken entire surface, just enough to slightly cook them.  Roast the beef bones in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.

2. Place the roasted vegetables, beef bones, and peppercorns in a stock pot (minimum 12-quart capacity) and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 6 - 12 hours.  In the beginning, skim off any fat and impurities from the surface of the stock.

3. Once done, strain the stock through fine strainer. Discard solids.

4. Cool the stock and refrigerate it overnight.  Makes about 4 quarts.

For pho broth:

1  1/2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar (duong phen; see Note)

1. Remove the stock from the fridge, and skim the fat off the top.

2. Ladle the amount of stock you intend to use into a large saucepan.  Add the salt, fish sauce, and sugar - but not all the quantity stated above unless you are using the all the stock you made, adjust the quantities to the amount you are using.  

3. Taste and adjust flavor with additional ingredients if you would like. The pho broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you've gone too far, add water to dilute.)

For pho bowls:
1  1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles ("rice sticks'')1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (1/16 inch thick; freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Ground black pepper

Asian/Thai basil (hung que)
Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)*
Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
Lime wedges
Hoisin sauce

*I don't like bean sprouts so didn't include them, but it is traditional to do so.

The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go. 

1. Place the basil, sliced chiles, and lime wedges on a garnish plate.

2. Heat the pho broth (should already be heating) and ready the noodles. To ensure good timing, reheat broth over medium flame as you're assembling bowls. If you're using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.

3. Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl; the latter is for noodle lovers, while the former is for those who prize broth.

4. If desired, after blanching noodles, blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.

5. Add other ingredients to the bowl. Place slices raw meat atop noodles. Garnish with chopped cilantro (thinly sliced onion and scallions are other garnishes, but I don't like either). Finish with black pepper.

6. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to cook raw beef and warm other ingredients. Serve your pho with with the garnish plate.

I think my first foray into pho was a success. I am spoiled here in Portland with a vast number of excellent pho places, and the fact that mine even semi-stood up made me happy. 

Here is the pho I ate while watching baseball last Friday night. A fine Friday night indeed.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beef Panang Curry

I know, I know, I already posted a beef panang curry recipe (here). I wouldn't have posted this meal except that I tried something a little bit novel, at least for me, and it turned out spectacularly.

Here's how it went down: I took a pack of beef stew meat out of my freezer on Sunday so that I could make chili on Monday. Monday, I got home from work and headed directly to the store to get the ingredients I needed for the chili. I was planning on making my regular chili recipe, a recipe I basically know by heart. I got home from the store and realized I forgot two key ingredients: onion and beer. 

Loyal readers, you know I have a busy life. When I get home from work, I am tired. Going to the store once is an ordeal, and twice is impossible. I was left with two options: make something different with the stew meat or make chili another night, but I have plans for Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and am likely leaving for Chicago on Friday evening. I don't want to make chili on Wednesday if that's the only night I'm home to eat it. So I had to figure out something else to make.

Whenever I don't know what to make with a certain ingredient I google "[whatever ingredient] martha stewart recipe" and on the rare chance I don't quickly find something that looks good, I will google "[whatever ingredient] recipe".  Martha failed me this time, but one of the first recipes I found with "beef stew meat recipe" was for beef panang.  Beef panang with stew meat?!? you say? I KNOW. But check this out:

~1 pound beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
~2 Tbsp panang curry paste
1 can coconut milk
~1 Tbsp fish sauce
~1 Tbsp shaved palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
Some basil leaves

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the beef, reduce heat so that the water is simmering, and cook the beef for about an hour and a half, until the meat is tender.  Drain the meat*, and put aside.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in whatever you're going to make the curry in. I used the gorgeous All-Clad saute pan my parents got me for my birthday.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

3. Add the curry paste, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the coconut milk and stir to combine.

4. Add the meat and bell pepper. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar. I don't measure either of these ingredients, so the quantities listed above might not be correct.  I'd say start with less, and add to your taste.

5. Simmer until the bell peppers are at your desired tenderness.  Add the basil leaves.

6. Serve over rice.

* The broth that is left after boiling the meat is delicious. I was effing starving while cooking this meal, so on a whim I spooned some of my already cooked rice into a bowl and poured the broth over it for a snack while the curry finished cooking. It was a fantastic snack. I saved the rest of the broth so I can pull that move again.

So, ya, boiling the meat first makes it super tender, and it soaks up all the delicious curry flavor. Very delicious.

Bon appetit.