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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Quick & Easy Pho

Pho is one of my favourite winter comfort foods.  It is widely available and pretty cheap to get a bowl of pho in most places these days.  My medium-sized city has dozens of pho restaurants that sell a huge, steaming bowl of beef, noodles and broth for $8 or less.

But sometimes - like this weekend - it is just too cold to go outside. We've had a huge snowfall in the past few days, so making pho at home is a warming treat.

Pho broth is usually made with beef bones cooked with charred onions, ginger and spices. Serious Eats' The Food Lab has a great tutorial for traditional pho.  I highly recommend checking it out, whether to make the recipe or read an interesting history of the dish.

But I've rarely got oxtail on hand, or the time to boil bones all day.  So this quicky shortcut using store-bought beef broth is a makes home made pho a weeknight meal.  It also adds in mushrooms and greens which, while not traditional, make an even heartier, healthier meal.  This recipe is inspired by Epicurious Detox Pho.

Here's what you need for this tasty soup.  You could double the broth and freeze it for a winter treat any time.

350 grams (3/4 pound) eye of round steak or roast (you could also use thinly pre-sliced beef available in Asian grocery stores for pho and bulgogi)
1 large finger of ginger (about 4 inches in total)
4 garlic cloves
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
8 cups beef broth (low-sodium if store-bought, or home made)
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
125 grams rice noodles (vermicelli or rice sticks)
1 head bok choy or 4 baby bok choy, spinach, kale or your choice of greens (about 4 cups)

125 grams mushrooms (I used shiitake, oyster and enoki, but you can use any kind you like) 

bean sprouts
fresh basil or cilantro
small red chili pepper, sliced
green onion, sliced
hoisin sauce
sriracha or hot sauce
lime wedges

Slice ginger and peel and smash garlic cloves.  Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves. Toast for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned.  

Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered. 

Meanwhile, if your beef isn't already thinly sliced, place it in the freezer to get cold enough to slice paper thin.

After 20 minutes, remove the ginger, garlic and spices from the broth. Make sure to get all the cloves. Add fish sauce and salt to the broth, taste and adjust seasoning.

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions (boil or pour boiling water over them). Drain and add to large soup bowls.  Top with garnishes if desired (sliced chilis, green onions and herbs).  

Add the mushrooms and bok choy to the simmering broth. Cook for 3 minutes.  

Thinly slice the beef and add it to the broth to cook for just a few seconds, then remove the beef to the bowls with noodles.  

Ladle the mushrooms, greens and broth over the beef and noodles in the bowls. 

Sprinkle with additional herbs and garnishes. Add sriracha and hoisin sauce if desired. 

Slurp and enjoy!  This will warm you up on the coldest winter night and makes the house smell amazing.  

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