Sunday, December 8, 2013
I have been wanting to make that terrific Vietnamese noodle soup - pho for a long time. The key seems to be getting the broth right. So, I was pleasantly surprised when my issue of Cooks Illustrated (from Americas Test Kitchen) came in and it had a pho approach. As you can imagine, this wasn't a recipe to be followed slavishly, but a set of ideas that I could adopt. The big aha was to use a bunch of ground beef as a stock base. Something that the ATK folks have previously suggested and I have tried before. The simple idea is that you grind up some beef chuck, cover with water and bring to the boil. Throw away the water at this stage, rinse the ground beef, then add store-bought beef stock and other flavorings. The stock comes up well flavored and quite clear. An ideal base for pho.
8 cups beef stock
6 cups water
1 1/2 lb ground beef (I used chuck which I ground myself)
2 medium yellow onions peeled and quartered - divided use
5" ginger piece sliced thinly - no need to peel
6 star anise pods
10 whole cloves
4" stick of cinnamon
12 black peppercorns
1 Kaffir Lime leaf
1/2 cup fish sauce (divided use)
2T plain sugar
1 lb thin rice noodles, soaked in hot water and then quickly boiled
1 bunch cilantro
3 scallions, green parts only, cut on the bias
12 oz rib eye meat, very thinly sliced - easier done if frozen a bit before.
1 jalapeno pepper sliced thinly, maintaining seeds and ribs
5 oz bean sprouts
a little more fish sauce
1 bunch Thai (or in a pinch regular) basil
2 or 3 T srirarcha
Lime wedges from 2 limes
Place the ground beef into a large dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, turn heat down and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Strain off and discard the water (and associated scum). Rinse the beef, clean the dutch oven and return the ground beef to the dutch oven. Add the onion, aromatics, fish sauce, salt and sugar to the pot, followed by the beef stock and water. Stir to combine as well as possible. Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 45 minutes.
Strain the beef and other solids reserving the liquid. Discard the solids. Strain the broth again, this time through cheese cloth until clear.
Soften the noodles in warm water for about 10-15 minutes, then boil them for 1 minute.
Layer the noodles, some thinly sliced onion (from the remaining quarter), the scallion tops, cilantro and beef into preheated soup bowls. Fill the bowls with steaming hot broth
Serve accompanied by sliced jalapenos, basil, srirarcha, fish sauce and lime wedges.