Archive for ◊ January, 2011 ◊

31 Jan 2011 Strawberry Sandwiches

I have never seen a recipe published for this sandwich, but it’s one of my favorites (probably because it’s more like dessert than a sandwich.  I have my demons, and all of them are sweet…).  I first encountered this sandwich on the campus of San Diego State University, in the late 1970’s, then I never saw it anywhere else, except in my own kitchen. I’ve made my version a lot over the years, usually for tea (tea-the-meal, the one with finger sandwiches, scones, little cakes, and  served on fancy china).  I love tea-the-meal.  It’s a grazers delight; little bits of everything, and everything tasty and pretty. But I digress, back to the Strawberry Sandwich.  (I have never been able to spell “sandwich” without spell check…, it just doesn’t look right without another “h” in there. And I digress yet again…) With strawberries now showing up in our farmer’s markets (yes, in January!) I had a hankering for this sandwich, so I made one, or two.

Like I said, this s-a-n-d-w-h-i-c-h is a great addition to any tea, but it’s a good treat to serve at play dates (PB&J for the kids, SBS for the moms), pack for a walk or a picnic, or to pull together if someone stops by and you want to keep them around for awhile.  The trick to pulling these together at the last minute?  Keep a loaf of raisin bread in the freezer!  Pull out 2 or 4 slices when needed, by the time you get the honey and cream cheese out, the strawberries sliced, and the tea brewing, the bread will be defrosted and ready to use.  These sandwiches would also be good for a Valentine’s Day treat, or a special Mother’s Day event. My daughter had a catering gig on Sunday and I suggested this sandwich to round out a fabulous spread of finger sandwiches. This sandwich could fit in anywhere!  I really can’t understand why no one else makes it.

So, a big Thank You to the cafeteria ladies of San Diego State University for this lovely sandwich.  I hope you get your day in the sun 🙂

Strawberry Sandwich

For each sandwich:

2 slices of good quality raisin bread or cinnamon-raisin bread

approx 1T cream cheese (whatever kind you like, full fat, low fat, no fat…)

approx 1 teaspoon honey (or a little less)

3-4 strawberries, thickly sliced, rounded edges set aside for another use.

Thinly spread the cream cheese on both sides of the raisin bread.  On one side, drizzle the honey and spread evenly over the cream cheese.  On the other slice, lay thick, flat slices of strawberry.  It’s bit of a jigsaw puzzle to get them all to fit without leaving too much space between the slices, but it’s only a small puzzle, nothing intimidating.  Put the bread with honey on top of the bread with the strawberries.  For easiest slicing, flip the sandwich over.  Cut off all the crusts, and then slice as desired.  I usually get three rectangular shaped finger sandwiches from each, but in the picture above I cut in half on the diagonal.  Eat within a few hours.  The sandwich does not keep long, and definitely not overnight.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  If you are looking for a more savory sandwich to serve with this, check out the post for Smoked Chicken & Almond Sandwiches!

30 Jan 2011 Drunken Monkey Cake

Drunken Monkey Cake: my third cake from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  The directions were bothersome again, but I (mostly) made it as directed the first time.  This resulted in a cake that was too “moist” (probably too many bananas) but the cake showed promise, so I committed to rebaking it.

The first thing to go was the showy process of flaming the cherries in rum.  The directions specified boiling dried cherries in ¾ cup water, then pouring ¾ cup rum over the cherries, and lighting the whole thing on fire.  Being English, I know a few things about lighting things on fire.  I’ve had flaming Christmas Pudding every Christmas and New Year’s Day of my life.  The flames are for show.  Why do I want to flame the cherries?  Who’s watching?  I boiled the cherries in the water, added the rum, and set the mixture aside. I know better than to burn up my rum.

The second big problem with the recipe was the ingredient list which called for “5 or 6 very ripe bananas”.  Come again?  How much banana? Small, medium or large bananas?  I had four small and two large bananas, so that’s what I used.  Not good.  The cake was way too moist.  Even with 20 minutes extra baking, it was still too “moist”.   Stop the madness!  Specify in cups or by weight how much mashed banana to use!  For the rebake I did a little research.  One banana should equal 1/3 to ½ cup of mashed pulp, a bit more helpful, but still an issue.  With “5 or 6 very ripe bananas” I was now dealing with 1 ½ cups, 1 2/3 cups, 2 cups, or 3 cups of mashed banana!  The higher quantity being double the lower quantity!  Isn’t this maddening?  Recipes directions should be written to ensure success. If I follow a recipe I should get a good result,  without having to do additional research or recipe reworking. The second Drunken Monkey cake was baked with 2 cups of mashed banana (which was 4 medium bananas).  Still too much banana.  1 2/3 cup of mashed banana is probably just about right.

The next issue with the recipe was to drain the drunken cherries, and to pour the thickened liquid into the bananas.  Once again, how much liquid was I to expect from the cherries.  What if I didn’t have enough, what if I had too much?  The amount of liquid is not so critical in a sauce, but for a cake it makes a big difference.  So with my second rebake, I changed the way of plumping the cherries, and measured the liquid before I added it to the bananas.  By this time I had also run out of rum, so I had to switch to brandy!  Now I know both rum and brandy taste fine!  Start soaking the fruit the night before baking the cake.

The next change I made to the recipe was to substitute chocolate chips for the nuts (think frozen, drunken, chocolate covered bananas!).  I don’t like nuts, so this was a good option for me, but if I were a nut lover, I think nuts would be awesome in this cake, with or without the addition of chocolate.

The picture above reflects all the changes I made.  Now there is one more issue, I had a piece for breakfast…, hic.  Maybe there was a point to burning off the rum…

Drunken Monkey Cake with Chocolate

Adapted from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • 2 cups dried cherries (recipe did not specify what kind of dried cherries.  I used tart dried cherries)
  • 1 cup dark rum (brandy works, too)
  • 1 2/3 cups mashed very ripe banana (approx. 3 or 4 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips
  1. The night before baking this cake, or early the morning of, pour the rum over the dried cherries, stir, and set aside to plump.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mash the bananas and measure 1 2/3 cup of pulp to use in the cake.
  4. Drain the rum from the cherries.  You should have approx 3 tablespoons of rum.  Stir this drained rum into the mashed bananas and set aside.
  5. Line the bottom of a 10 inch tube pan with parchment paper, then spray with Pam or spread with butter. (There is too much batter for a normal 12-cup bundt pan.  If you use a bundt pan, don’t line with parchment paper, but use Baker’s Joy! or Pam to well grease the pan–and you’ll probably have enough batter left over to also make 4 or 6 muffins.  Adjust baking times accordingly.)
  6. In a medium bowl combine the white and wheat flours, the salt, and the baking soda and set aside.
  7. With an electric mixer Beat the butter for a minute or so.  Then add in the white and brown sugars and beat for an additional 4 minutes.
  8. Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  9. Stir banana mixture into the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
  10. Slowly add the flour mixture to the banana batter.
  11. Stir the drained cherries, nuts and/or chocolate chips into the batter.
  12. Pour batter into prepared pan and place into a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for approx 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean and sides start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  13. Cool in pan for ten minutes, then loosen sides and turn out to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes a lot of cake; depending on how you slice it, you’ll probably have 16-20 slices.  Call the neighbors! Just one warning…, no, two warnings.  It’s probably best not to serve this cake for breakfast! Hic. Hic.  This is definitely not a good cake for children.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, you drunken monkey, you… hic!

29 Jan 2011 Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been in a funk all week.  I made two more cakes from that book I was all aglow about last weekend.  I’m no longer glowing.

First off, I wanted to make the Red Velvet cake; the picture looked so great, and it was front and center on the cover, so I had high hopes.  The recipe was a bit odd though.  Red Velvet cake is supposed to have three things: 1) a very, very light chocolate taste 2) a very bright red color and 3) a pronounced tang from the addition of buttermilk and vinegar.  This cake was good on point one.  The recipe called for ¼ cup of cocoa powder, which is good.  I have seen some recipes for as little as 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder.  I wanted some chocolate taste in the cake!  The recipe also hit a high note on the red color.  The color in the picture looked good, and recipe only called for one tablespoon of red food coloring.  I have seen some recipes call for as much as three tablespoonsful!  My first hint of trouble was with point three, no buttermilk and no vinegar!  The recipe called for sour cream, but I was still going to go with it, thinking the sour cream would have enough tang.

Once I started making the cake, the trouble began.  First, the directions called for “a food processor”.  Um no.  The directions then said, ” Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed”.  Not a food processor, a mixer.  Bad mistake. THEN, the directions called for two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, but the pictures of the cake-both on the cover, and next to the recipe-were of a three layer cake.  Uh-oh.  Having only two matching 8-inch cake pans, and two matching 9-inch cake pans, not three matching of either size, I decided to bake the cake in the  9-inch layer pans thinking the recipe probably meant to three 8-inch pans or two 9-inch pans.  I thought wrong.  I had too much batter for two 9-inch pans.  The pans were this close to overflowing.  The cakes baked up huge, and domed.  I am pretty sure the cake needed to be baked in three 9-inch pans.  Not sure how many 8-inch pans.  How could there be two such glaring mistakes on one recipe, especially in a book based on recipes that had been tested and that explicitly stated (and the specific reason I bought this book) that recipes with problems had been “rebaked” until they were right?

BUT, after baking, the cake looked good, but a bit crisp on the outside (probably due to over-baking because each pan held too much batter) and seriously domed.  Never mind, I thought.  I can fix it.  I trimmed off the over-browned sides of the cakes, and cut off the domed tops.  The cakes stacked nicely together.  Firm enough for a stable two layer cake, I thought.  I wasn’t overwhelmed when I tasted the discarded domed top, but I thought that was because the cake was still a bit warm from the oven, and didn’t have frosting on yet.

I mixed up the frosting for the cake.  It went on lovely and I spread it on thickly, but I definitely had enough left over for a third layer! Nevertheless, I though the cake was beautiful.  Look at the picture! I was all excited to kick off my Valentine’s Day marathon chocolate posts with this cake…, until I tasted it.  The frosting was to die for, but the cake was No Big Whoop, in fact, it was a Bad Whoop.   The light chocolate taste was good, and there was a bit of a tang, but it wasn’t a good tang.  The cake just wasn’t good. The color was red, but with a bad tasting cake, it made things worse.  I tested the cake on twelve of my favorite testers, my Dining For Women group. Most said the cake was OK, but nobody wanted me to make it again.  Everyone would prefer a chocolate cake, or a yellow cake, or a lemon cake or a carrot cake or a coconut cake.  No one wanted any more Red Velvet cake. The next morning I tasted the cake again, and I knew it was all over.  It just was not a good tasting cake.  Remember the red velvet armadillo groom’s cake in “Steel  Magnolias”?  Did you want a piece? This cake tasted as bad as that cake looked!  It was a tragedy.

I did get three requests for the Cream Cheese Frosting though. The frosting I will make again.  So the frosting recipe I will share.  I hope you have a good cake recipe to use it on!

Cream Cheese Frosting

From “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar (about 7 ½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  Add in the vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Makes enough frosting to decorate a three layer cake.

I served the Red Velvet cake, with another one made from the same book .  More problems with the recipe but well worth a rebake.  Version Two of the Drunken Monkey cake is sitting on my counter right now.  A definite improvement over Version One in looks. Taste testing tomorrow.  I sure hope it is good enough to post. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

22 Jan 2011 Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I buy a lot of cookbooks and a lot of cooking magazines.  It’s a big problem.  One time I tried to cook my way through one cookbook (which is how this blog got started) so I would have to stop buying new cookbooks.  I probably made it through half the cookbook, but I kept buying magazines and “Special Interest Publications” anyway.  It’s a big, big problem…

Over time I’ve found that I usually make three recipes from each publication, sometimes more and sometimes less, and then make a judgment about the book.  Not all books pass the three recipe test, and this infuriates me.  WHY publish so-so recipes? Just in case someone might like it?  I want to yell at all cookbook authors, editors, and publishers, “Stop publishing and republishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!”   Just because you have a recipe with a cute name or a pretty picture doesn’t mean it has to be published!  Where’s the quality control? If a recipe is so-so, dump it and move onto the next one, or if it has potential, remake it until it’s fabulous.  Stop publishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!

I understand differences in tastes, I don’t make recipes I know I won’t like.   I have nothing against publishing hot and spicy recipes.  Many people like those, I’m just not going to try them.  I make recipes that sound good to me, and I expect the recipe to work and I want the recipe to taste good.  No, more than good.  I want the recipe to be fabulous, but I will settle for one step up from mediocre.  One step up from mediocre wouldn’t make me angry.  It would be an improvement! I received a huge cookbook for Christmas, which shall remain nameless.  I made three recipes.  Three bombs. Well, not bombs exactly. The recipes worked, but they weren’t as great as the descriptions made them out to be.  I had taste testers for all these recipes.  All said the food was “OK, but not great” and then started giving suggestions for improvements!  You’d think the author would have done this.  If the recipe is not GREAT, don’t publish it, even if there is a good story or a fabulous picture to go with it. The stories and the pictures are supposed to be backup for a good recipes, not to compensate for them.

I have taste testers for ALL my recipes.  I know I have pretty high standards, so I check my expectations with my friends, family, Dining For Women members, book club members, clay class classmates, quilt group friends, massage night friends, neighbors, workmen… If I don’t like something, I check to see what others think.  Most often they agree with me.  If my testers like something I don’t, I remake it and test it again on myself, and some more testers, to see what I missed.  If I rave about something, but my testers give it so-so marks, I don’t publish the recipe.  I only publish recipes I love, and recipes my taste testers love, too.

I understand differences in preferences. Not everyone likes a particular texture. Not everyone likes the same kind of brownie or spaghetti sauce, I know this. I know not everyone is going to like the same thing, but still, there are recipes published that are just NOT good.  This needs to stop.  It’s no wonder some people think they are horrible cooks.  Chances are they’ve made some attempts over the years, have tried some some fantastic sounding recipes, only to be defeated by them.  It’s not always the cook. There are just too many bad, so-so, and mediocre recipes published.  I want to tell self proclaimed bad cooks, “It’s probably not you, it’s probably the recipe”.  To be a GREAT cook, you have to have a GREAT recipe…, and there are few cookbooks out there you can trust to give you a great recipe on every page.

I’ve  found a “post worthy” recipe in the newest cookbook I bought, “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  Melissa works at NPR, and every Monday for a year she brought a cake into the NPR office in New York. If she didn’t get good feedback, she “re-baked” the recipe until it worked! (A woman after my own heart!)  Her cookbook is the compilation of the best cakes from that one year experiment.  The first cake I baked from this book was “The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake” (the recipe was originally published in “Barefoot Contessa: Parties!“).  Winner, winner, winner! My son likes the two-day old leftovers so much he’s taking them back to his dorm with him, and texting his friends to expect it!

This weekend I am going to bake to more cakes from the book and then test them out on my Dining For Women group.  Stay tuned!  But until then, bake this!  It’s yummy.  Not too sweet. Classic coffee cake. Goes well with coffee.  Very well.  A nice Sunday breakfast or mid-morning snack.  Every one of my taste testers liked it. Liked it a lot. We need more recipes like this to be published and republished.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

For Cake

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For Streusel

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 325º.  Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan (or spray with Pam for Baking)
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined.
  7. Make the streusel…combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter.  Mix until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in walnuts. Set aside.
  8. Spoon 1 cup of cake batter into bottom of prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the streusel mix.  Pour in half of remaining cake batter, top with remaining streusel, and then last half of cake batter.
  9. Bake cake in preheated 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.
  10. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool.  Let cake cool for at least 30 minutes, and as long as overnight.
  11. In a small bowl stir the maple syrup and powdered sugar together with a fork.
  12. Drizzle glaze over top of cake.
  13. Serve.  You’ll get about 16 slices of cake.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  My apologies for being a bit hot winded before I got to the recipe but I do feel strongly about NOT passing on bad, so-so, or mediocre recipes. I promise only to send you GREAT recipes! Make them! Then DEFINITELY tell me what you think!

20 Jan 2011 Veggie Breakfast Casserole

Do you have a breakfast casserole in your repertoire?  Breakfast casseroles are great (but they don’t photograph well).  The bulk of the work is done the night before.  The casserole rests in the refrigerator while you sleep, and is taken out and baked in the morning. Breakfast casseroles are a wonderful thing if you are entertaining overnight house guests.  They are  convenient to make for groups of friends sharing a snow condo or the beach house.  They are a must for family gatherings such as Christmas morning and special occasion-baby shower, Valentine’s Day-brunches.  Breakfast casseroles are popular at potluck brunches.  You just gotta have one or two in your repertoire!

Here’s a good one to start with.  It’s based on a Spinach Strata recipe from epicurious.com, but I increased the spinach, added mushrooms, decreased the mustard and the eggs, and changed the method! I guess that means this recipe is adaptable.  Don’t like all that spinach? Use half and then add something else that you do like, diced and drained tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts, sauteed diced zucchini, maybe?  Want to add in a ¼ cup chopped bell pepper or spicy peppers? Go ahead!  Don’t have the specific cheese mentioned? Use what you like and what you have on hand (just don’t use all cheddar or you will have a greasy mess).  Want to saute fresh spinach instead of using frozen spinach?  Go for it! You could also add some browned sausage but I really think a few slices of good bacon on the side would be better. Be sure to add some citrus on the side, too, so that all the iron from the spinach can be absorbed!

My one problem with this recipe is that it makes soooo much! Breakfast casseroles are filling, a 9 x 13 inch pan full serves a crowd of 12 or so (variable of course, depending on how many hale and hearty men and teenage boys you have in the crowd), which is good for many occasions, but not so good for a  quiet brunch at home.  If you are making this just for you and your immediate family, half the recipe and bake it in a 9 inch square pan for a bit less than the stated cooking time.  Leftovers reheat well in the microwave and I have enjoyed this for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I think you’ll enjoy having this recipe in your repertoire.  If you get hooked on breakfast casseroles, I have a smoked salmon one to share, too 🙂

Veggie Breakfast Casserole

  • 2 (10-oz) packages frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, diced
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon  nutmeg
  • 8 cups stale cubed (1 inch) French. Italian or Sourdough bread (1/2 lb)
  • 2 cups (about 6 oz) coarsely grated good melting cheese such as Gruyère, Jack, Smoked Gouda, Mozzarella, cheddar (the combo used will affect the taste of your casserole, of course.  For the best taste, mix your cheeses.  Definitely don’t use a full 2 cups of SMOKED Gouda (overpowering smoked taste) or cheddar (too greasy).
  • 1 cup (about 2 oz.) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2  ¾ cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  1. Defrost spinach in the microwave and let cool.  Then squeeze–and I do mean s-q-u-e-e-e-e-z-e handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.  At least half your “spinach” will be green water.
  2. Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg.  Cook, stirring, for a minute or so and then remove from pan.  Add diced mushrooms and another tablespoonful of butter and olive oil to the pan.  Saute mushrooms until cooked, about 5 minutes.  Raise heat, and boil off excess moisture.  Add mushrooms to onion spinach mixture.
  3. Pour bread cubes into a very large bowl.  Stir in cooled spinach mixture and cheeses.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Pour this mixture over the bread-veggie-cheese mixture in the large bowl.
  5. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Spread mixture evenly into corners and smooth the top. Chill the casserole, covered with plastic wrap, overnight (8 hours or so).
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F while casserole stands at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  7. Bake breakfast casserole, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Enjoy your breakfast casserole with some great coffee, sliced fruit and a slice or two of really good, salty bacon and thanks for stopping by my kitchen this fine, fine morning!

19 Jan 2011 Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a proliferation of “Pho” restaurants in your community.  If you do have a Pho restaurant nearby, I encourage you to try it out.  You’ll be rewarded with a huge bowl of broth and noodles, to which you add fresh basil, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, peppers, chili sauce, and freshly squeezed lime.  The broth is quite tasty, and with the addition of all the toppings, the Pho has a very fresh taste.   On your first visit to a Pho restaurant, stick to Beef Pho or Chicken Pho, with the parts of beef and chicken that you are familiar with.  There are some other types of Pho which might be a bit challenging to an uninitiated American palate.

Having fond memories of Pho, I wanted to make it for myself.  I wanted to have a clear, rich, fat-free broth. I thought it would be great to have some of the broth on hand, and be able to boil it up and stir in some fresh ingredients whenever I wanted to.  I also think Pho would be a great dish to make ahead and then take to share with friends and family at a snow condo or beach house.   I found this recipe adapted from the cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen at Steamy Kitchen.  It’s great!  I served it to seven friends, and three family members, and they all though it was great, too.  SCORE!

Before you make this dish, you should know how to pronounce it, “pho”  is pronounced “fuh” and not “foo” or “foe” or “poe” or  “puh” — that’s fuh-sho’!

If you have made your own chicken soup before, Pho is no more bother.  Follow the recipe below and make sure you buy good bones, start the day before, rinse and blanch the bones, have three hours to let the bones simmer. Then you can let the broth sit in the refrigerator overnight so that the hardened fat can be removed before finishing the pho.

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

The broth

  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced across into 4 slices
  • 4″  of fresh ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 5-6 lbs of good beef  knuckle bones (beef shanks/knuckles $1.99/lb)
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

In the soup bowls

  • 1 rice noodles (dried or fresh)
  • cooked beef from the broth
  • ½ lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thinly as possible.

On the side

  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced fresh basil
  • limes wedges (2)
  • 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
  • bean sprouts (about 1 lb)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha hot sauce

Char:

Turn broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil the bones:

Don’t skip this part! Fill your biggest pot (12-qt capacity would be ideal) with cool water. Boil water first, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth:

Add ginger, onion, spices, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside. Continue simmering broth for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavor doesn’t quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of regular sugar–and another pinch of salt, if needed (I over-salted my broth, so be careful). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect refrigerate broth overnight and remove hardened fat the next morning.

Prepare noodles & meat:

Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible – try freezing for 15-30 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Cut or shred the cooked meat from broth and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Guests will garnish their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles – for some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 – 45 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed.

Serving:

Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, bean sprouts, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. The hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests garnish their own bowls with the mint, basil, cilantro, peppers, lime, and sauces.

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do. It’s a chin dribbling, big bowl of healthy, comfort food with a fresh & crunchy twist.  One of my favorite foods I believe. I have my fingers crossed that I will taste the real thing in Vietnam next year.  I hope this measures up. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!