Pho-king Easy Pho

Categories: Food News

As I've mentioned, I swoon over pho. My colleague Lisa, who's also from DC, joins me in craving good pho that's not readily available in South Florida.

Since it was her birthday, I thought I'd make some for a crowd. Over the past few days, I whipped up a more complicated version because the extra labor in making stock from scratch is worth it. I also created an easy version for this blog, assuming readers aren't comfortable making their own stock.

Here's the hard version, with this caveat. Beef stock is one of the elixirs of life. I would drink it for breakfast. No home cook or chef worth her meddle uses boxed stock. The flavor and body of beef stock is an essential building block in cooking.

That said, if you're eating hydroponic tomatoes and out of season asparagus from Peru, doctoring the boxed stuff will do. Here's how to put things together after the jump.

Prep your ingredients
For the broth: three boxes of low sodium beef broth (or the stuff you made yourself)- two c water - 1 cinnamon stick -2" sliver of ginger, sliced lengthwise- 1 t coriander seeds - 1 t fennel seeds - 2 whole star anise -1 cardamom pod - 6 whole cloves - 1 1/2 T kosher salt - 1/4 c fish sauce - 1 oz of sugar

For the soup: two cloves garlic, chopped-1T ginger, chopped - 8-10 scallions, chopped -2 lb flank steak - kosher salt -three to four limes, wedged - two packages of rice noodles (you can get these at Whole Foods. I like the flat ones) - bean sprouts - two to three jalapenos, sliced - mint, cilantro, basil, cleaned and de-stemmed

Doctor the broth

1. Tie cinnamon, coriander, fennel, star anise, cardamom, and cloves in a cheesecloth and drop it in your stockpot.

2. Bring broth to a rolling boil, add salt to taste, then turn it down to simmer for about a half hour.

3. Just before plating, taste broth and adjust seasoning - this is a crucial step. If the broth's flavor doesn't quite shine, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and sugar. Keep doing this until the broth tastes to your liking.

Assemble the soup
Pho usually incorporates super thin slices of flank steak, brisket, etc.  If you're by an Asian market that carries meat thinly cut against the grain, buy it. You won't even have to take these steps of marinading and grilling flank steak beforehand. I figured I'd be serving guys with bigger appetites and I'd pull together a recipe that is easier to assemble from Whole Foods or Publix.

1. Salt and marinade flank steak. I was under the gun, so I just used salt, lime, and olive oil for a half hour. Cook steak in a grill pan or on your grill. Ensure that it's still quite pink when you take it off to rest, since once you add it to the soup it's going to continue cooking.

2. In a pan on medium low heat, combine ginger and garlic and saute until brown.

3. Boil rice noodles until done.

4. On a plate, display bean sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers. (We also had Thai bird peppers for hotheads)

5. Spoon garlic and ginger in the bottom of your bowl. Add a serving of rice noodles atop. Add cut flank steak. Your pieces should be easy to eat-- no sheet of flank steak that requires utensils. Add chopped scallions, and a squeeze of lime, then a ladle or two of broth.

If your guests want to doctor their own soup, let them add the bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, and cock sauce.

I assembled it for them, with the results at the top of this post. I like things leafy, but you can always chiffonade your herbs.

How long does this take? Once the broth was finished, the start to finish took me a little over an hour at my house. (I transported it to my friend after.) If I prepped the soup innards with more attention to detail, It would have taken two hours.

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