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{February 24, 2017}   Food Pho Thought

There is a definite chill in the air here in Big Sky Country. One that harkens  back to yesteryear and winters of long ago. Nowhere in sight are signs of the climate change promised and yet we know it’s here. Not two days ago, most of the snow was gone and green grass was all the eye could see. Then a warm front came in; one had hope that an early spring was on the horizon. But alas the more things change, the more they stay the same. The warmth was only a prelude to a winter storm. Since then it has snowed for nearly two days non-stop and all the progress towards greener pastures feels like it’s disappeared. Still I hold onto hope. I hold on to the hope that this cold front, though nostalgic for some, won’t last forever. I hold onto the hope that as time and weather patterns change that, though just as brutal, this winter won’t last as long as past winters. That the sun will come out and warm all it shines upon. In the meantime, winters like this are a great time to learn and try new things. What better than a soup that is a generational and cultural staple to warm you from the inside out until the rest of the world begins to thaw. As we all go through this cold winter I encourage everyone to explore new cultures, embrace new ideas, try new things, and just enjoy good food. 


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I grew up in the northwest, where a large population of Asia Americans and Asian immigrants reside. Pho was a common and cheap soup to find on a cold day and wet day. So imagine my surprise when yuppies and food trucks discovered Pho and the our staple went from “Phoe” to “Pha” and from $4 bowls at a mom and pop corner store to $15 a high end food truck. Since Pho has made its emergence to the elite it only made since to find the cooking class I attended last week at an upscale kitchen supply store would be teaching us how to make this soup like a gourmet recipe. Don’t get me wrong I was thrilled to learn this yummy Vietnamese staple. The class was more observational than hands on, so I went straight home determined to see if I could make the recipes myself. I have to say I’m pretty impressed with myself, especially since I’ve taken a little break from cooking lately. This was a great recipe to restart my passions. 

Beef Pho

Ingredients

  • 3-5 lbs. oxtail or beef bones
  • 1 1/2 – 2lbs chuck roast (I used sirloin steak)
  • (4) 3″ pieces of ginger, halved
  • 4 yellow onions, peeled and halved
  • 2 1/2 c. fish sauce 
  • 1/3 c. palm or rock sugar
  • 2-3 whole anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 pounds rice sticks (small or medium)
  • 1 sirloin steak, partially frozen
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 c. chopped cilantro 
  • 1 c. Thai or regular basil, chiffonade
  • 2 lbs. bean sprouts
  • 2-3 hot chili peppers (Thai, Anaheim, Jalepeno, Serrano)
  • 2 limes thinly wedged

Note: I cut the recipe in half for my small family and the fish sauce to a 1/4 of the called for amount to avoid an over-salted flavor as the leftovers sit in the refrigerator. 


Method 

  1. Bring 8-12 quarts of water to a boil, add beef. Boil 10 minutes then drain, rinse meat and bones. Bring another 8-12 quarters of water to boil with bones and meat, reduce heat to a simmer, skimming surface often. 
  2. Char ginger and onions over high heat on the grill (I used the broiler). Add charred finger and onions, fish sauce and sugar to the pot. Simmer an additional 60 minutes. Remove beef and set aside in refrigerator. Remove oxtail and dispose (I definitely did not do this! Pho is a humble food made to feed working class and poor people originally. Not to mention I come from a southern “waste-not want-not” family. So I used the meat from the steak and oxtail to make the most amazing BBQ sandwiches for a quick dinner). Continue to simmer broth an additional 90 minutes. 
  3. Place anise and cloves in the broth (you can place in a spice bag though I didn’t find it necessary). Simmer broth for another 30 minutes. Drain and discard spices, ginger and onions (I added mine to the BBQ). 
  4. Refrigerate broth overnight.
  5. The next day, skim fat and reheat broth. 
  6. Slice half-frozen steak. 
  7. Prepare noodles according to the package. 
  8. Chop peppers, green onions, bean sprouts, cilantro to be added as desired.
  9. In a large bowl add noodles and pour broth over noodles. 
  10. Add raw steak (only if broth is boiling hot, it will cook in the broth). Otherwise add to broth while it is still simmering and allow it to cook. 

This soup is so good! We loved every bite of it. I hope you do too. 

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