Sunday, March 27, 2011

Homemade Pho

I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty sure that all I need to survive is my hair straightener and pho. I can assure you that even in 90 degree weather, you can catch me in my kitchen hovering over my stove cooking up a big pot of pho. Since I married into a Vietnamese family, I figured that it would probably be a good idea to teach myself how to make it. This recipe feeds my family of 5 for 2-3 days depending on how often we eat it. Remember, that you may cut recipe in half or just use it as a reference. I actually used 3 pounds or so of beef bone in this recipe along w/ one whole foster farm chicken. If you think it's weird to make a broth with that mix, you don't have to do it. You can use all beef bones if you'd like, or all chicken. Whatever your preference, I assure you that it will all come out delicious!

You will need:

1 whole 3-4 pd skinned foster farm chicken(cut up chicken into large manageable pieces)or you may use all beef bone/knuckle for this recipe as well

3 pds of beef bone and/or beef knuckle

3 pound pkg of beef bottom round roast(use only if you want cooked beef slices)or you may sub w/oxtail

2 pkgs of beef meatballs

1 4 inch piece of ginger split in half

2 large onions cut in half(DO NO PEEL SKIN)

1 1/2 T. of coriander

1 tsp. whole cloves

2 cardamom pods split

2 cinnamon sticks

1 handful of star anise

2/3 cup of fish sauce

1 1/2 T. salt

3 oz. of palm sugar or 1/4 cp of sugar

1/2 tsp of msg(optional)

3 pkgs of fresh rice noodle

2 cheese cloths for straining broth

12 qt. stainless steel pot and an extra pot to parboil your bones

26 cups of water(or fill up halfway but remember you may cut recipe in half)

1 Stainless steel tea balls or mesh vegetable bags to hold all the spices for easier clean up


Bean sprout


Lime wedges

Thinly sliced onion(soak onion in ice water for 30 min and drain)

Lime wedges

Chopped green onion

You want to roast your onion and ginger in the oven. Bake @ 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you have an open burner, then you should preferably char the onion and ginger over an open flame, turning occasionally until slightly blackened.

Take a pot big enough for all your meat,(except for bottom round roast)add enough water to cover and bring them to a boil for about 8-10 minutes or so. This step is for cleaning your bones and it will help you to get a clearer broth. While that pot is coming to a boil, get your other 12 qt pot ready and fill it half way(about 26 cps). Unless, you want to wait FOREVER AND A DAY for a big stock pot of water packed with meat and bones to boil, then you can skip this part. Otherwise having two pots going at a time will save you a butt load of pho'cken time(pun intended).

Once chicken and/or beef bone is done parboiling, dump it into a large colander in sink and lightly rinse off bones under cool water.

Since you should have another pot of water almost coming to boil, carefully add the bones/meat into the pot of water. This is also the time where you would add in the bottom round roast. When making this pot of pho, I didn't quite measure how much water I added, just make sure that after you've added all the meat in, that the pot is pretty much filled with water 3/4 way up. Feel free to take some water out if there is too much. Add in the char broiled ginger and onion. Add in fish sauce, palm sugar,salt(and msg if you're opting to use it), cinnamon sticks, and a big handful of star anise.

Put the other spices listed, into 1 stainless steel tea ball or mesh bags and drop them into the the pot. Make sure you remove that chain that comes along with the tea ball.

Now all that's left is leaving it all to simmer on low heat for 3 hrs. You know you've done it right when the pot looks disgusting and greasy.

Skim off fat as you go along trying to only take out what you need. Sometimes, if I feel like I'm taking out too much water along with the fat, then I will add more water to compensate.

After the broth has been simmering for 2 hrs I then taste the broth to see if I need to add any additional seasonings. Remove your beef bottom roast(if using) and allow to rest on cutting board before slicing against the grain. Keep in mind that this recipe uses chicken instead of all beef bone which means less fat, so if you decide to use more beef bone and/or oxtail, your broth will be very greasy at first, so make sure you use your ladle to skim off any fat that rises to the surface and add more water to pot if necessary. Also note, that you want the broth slightly stronger tasting cause once you add the noodles and garnishes it will bring down the flavor a tad bit. I usually make a small bowl for myself to taste check before serving to guests.

Once it's seasoned to your liking and has been simmering for at least 3 hrs, remove all bones and meat and place into colander over a large bowl.

Place two cheese cloths over a mesh strainer fitted on top of a pot and slowly strain the broth until done.

Now that your broth is pretty again and smells FANTASTIC, you can add in the beef meatballs if you opted for them and bring to a slight boil until the balls are cooked through(they will puff up when they are almost ready).

Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice your bottom round roast against the grain. Also don't forget to shred the meat off of the chicken that you had set aside. This is a very crucial step when using beef bone with tons of meat on it and ESPECIALLY OXTAIL! Right before you pour the broth into your bowl, is when you would toss in a couple of pieces of this delicious and tender meat!

You can also use raw, thinly sliced sirloin steak if you wish. To make slicing easier and to ensure thin cuts of meat, put meat in freezer for 30 min. and then slice.

Assembling the bowls: Place blanched rice noodles(or if using dry noodles, follow directions on package)in individual bowls and top with thinly cooked beef slices. If you are adding raw beef slices, the broth must be boiling to cook it through before you ladle the soup into the bowl. If the broth is not quite boiling but VERY HOT, than you can cook the meat by quickly dipping it into the pho broth using the ladle(it should take seconds). Once you've added the broth into the bowl, top with the garnishes of your choice and....VOILA!!!

Notes: The spices used in pho can get pretty pricey if you purchase them at your local Safeway, Fred Meyers or wherever you shop. If you know of a local Asian market or know someone that can get to one, I would highly recommend you go there cause it is waaaaay more inexpensive BELIEVE ME!
Also the type of fish sauce you use matters!! Don't use the ones that come in the plastic bottles...YUCKY! Use the ones that come in the glass bottles instead. There are various brands and most of them are very similar in taste.
Lastly, if you're using all beef bones and oxtails, the longer you simmer the broth the better! But I wouldn't recommend simmering chicken for longer then 3 to 4 hrs cause it will get VERY GELATINOUS after cooled and it will not look too appetizing when you're trying to reheat it. Feel free to add in any fixings to satisfy your taste buds! You can add all kinds of stuff to pho...tripe,shrimp,flank stank(I mean steak):),or even beef tendon. Whatever your palette, pho is always a real crowd pleaser!

I posted this recipe on my blog MONTHS before I started my Youtube channel so it differs slightly than the video. The spices, and the amount of meat I used DID NOT CHANGE, so feel free to use and follow the recipe listed w/ a few minor adjustments as stated in the video! If you want a healthier alternative than follow the written recipe for pho using chicken as the base but if you want a full bodied and tastier pho experience, than follow my video where I use all beef bones/oxtails and let it simmer for up to 8 hrs! ENJOY AND HAPPY EATING!! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chocolate mousse pie w/ whipped topping

So on Saturday, I went to a friends house for a bbq and decided to make a chocolate mousse pie w/ strawberries and tiny chocolate shavings. Number one rule for mousse...YOU MUST ALLOW MOUSSE TO SET BEFORE SERVING. Lol. I made it and served it within 4 hrs when I would def recommend a least 8 hrs to overnight even. I had to make mousse cause I only had about a couple of tablespoons of sugar left in my pantry, and mousse was the only dessert I could think of that didn't require tons of sugar in it. Mousse's get most of their sugar from the melted chocolate using the double broiler method. I also used a store bought graham cracker crust cause I was crunched on time. I would highly advise against this because the texture is so crumbly, and you need more of a firmer crust to keep the mousse nicely intact(more for presentation reasons cause when you slice into the pie, you want to see the layers). Anyways, it was still delicious even though I totally rushed it and what's crazy, is by looking at the pie, it looked like I spent some extra time on it when really it took practically no time at all!

Here's a picture of the chocolate mousse I made...

Woopsy, this isn't the right type of chocolate mousse it it??

Ahh, here we are...:)

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Patty's Day Cupcakes for Peyton's class

Aren't these cupcakes just adorable!! Peyton and I made these for St. Patrick's Day for her pre-school class. It's just boxed deviled food cake mix with homemade cream cheese frosting w/ green food coloring and green sprinkles. I have to give props where it's due so thank you Peyton for decorating the cupcakes and making them so pretty baby! :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Better Late Than Never

So, I've been meaning to post up some pics from the bridal shower my friends and I just did this past weekend. It was mostly a success except for the fact that 1)I completely ruined my beautiful lilac and soft pink colored frosting because I had left it out by the sink and splashed TONS of water into the bowls while I was washing dishes! They didn't even get the chance to make love to my lemon/vanilla cupcakes that I had ready and cooled down. And 2) I made these beautiful heart shaped cookies(the ones I posted in a previous post) and stupid me...I FORGET THEM AT HOME!!! I was not having a good day! My kids were super bad that day and it was VERY difficult for me to get things done! Anyways, my double chocolate mousse parfaits made it, along with my cream puffs, and mini apple pie muffins! So, all was not lost and everyone had a great time!

Beautifully done by my bff Linda!! And yes, those are hand etched personalized wine glasses for all of the guests!

My infamous cream puffs and mini apple pie muffins

My double chocolate mousse parfaits w/raspberry sauce

I think next weekend I'll post up some pics of cupcakes w/ flower fondants on them. That's what I was going to do with the cupcakes I had planned for the bridal shower. I still get really bummed out thinking about how I didn't get a chance to showcase them. :( But since I have all this fondant and tools for it, I might as well make good use of them, right??
Till next time...

Oh I also forgot to mention that I made these cute mini green tea cupcakes that well...didn't make it through all those potholes in the street during transportation. DAMN, YOU WHITECENTER POTHOLES! Here's a picture of what they ended up looking like. If you look closely, I think maybe 1 or 2 actually survived, but the rest are definitely done for. Please, lets have a moment of silence for the cupcakes that never got to see past the styrofoam box...

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