Birthday Pho!

The attractive nuisance made me pho for my birthday! From our new favorite cookbook: Vietnamese Home Cooking, by Charles Phan.

I’ve seen pho recipes that say, simply, don’t bother. It’s too much work, just go out and have some Vietnamese grandma make it for you. We’re big fans of Vietnamese grandmas’ pho, but this was a cool experience and totally delicious. Don’t try this at home if you don’t have many hours to devote to it. And when you make the broth, be forewarned, that bag of chicken parts from the butcher may include a chicken head. (Photo taken but not included. You’re welcome.) But if you are going to make pho, this was a good recipe. It took time but it was not as difficult as some others I’ve seen. We find that eating pho is so satisfying. So you can only imagine how satisfying it is to eat pho that you’ve made yourself.

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Pho Ga: Chicken Noodle Soup (Charles Phan)

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) whole chicken
  • 6 whole scallions
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 quarts chicken stock (see chicken stock recipe)
  • Fish sauce, for seasoning
  • 1 (16-ounce) package dried rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Crispy fried shallots

Garnishes

  • Thai basil sprigs
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Limes, cut into wedges
  • Jalapeño chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings

Serves 6

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken, scallions, ginger, and salt and boil for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let stand for 15 minutes. If your chicken is larger than 3 pounds, let stand 10 minutes longer.

2. Just before the chicken is ready, prepare a large ice-water bath. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot (discarding the cooking liquid) and immediately submerge it in the ice-water bath, which will stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. Let stand for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cool enough to handle easily, remove from the water, and pat dry. Pull the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the bones and skin. Shred the meat with your fingers; you should have about 4 cups. (This step can be done a day ahead.)

3. In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Taste for seasoning and add fish sauce, if needed.

4. To ready the garnishes, arrange the basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chiles on a platter and place on the table.

5. Divide the rice noodles evenly among warmed soup bowls. Top each serving with about 3/4 cup of the shredded chicken, then divide the scallions and cilantro evenly among the bowls. Ladle the hot stock over the top, dividing it evenly, and sprinkle with the fried shallots. Serve immediately, accompanied with the platter of garnishes.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
  • 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 7 pounds bony chicken parts, such as back, wings, and necks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces light brown palm sugar or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Makes about 5 1/2 quarts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion and ginger on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, until the onion is soft and beginning to ooze. Remove from the oven and let the onion and ginger cool until they can be handled. Peel the onion and cut in half. Slice the unpeeled ginger into 1/4-inch thick coins.

2. While the onion and ginger are roasting, blanch the chicken bones: To ensure the pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the bones in the pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Then remove the bones, set aside, and bring the water to a boil.

3. When it is at a rolling boil, add the bones, return the water to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the bones into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot and return the rinsed bones to the pot.

4. Add the onion halves, ginger slices, salt, sugar, and 8 quarts of fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a gentle simmer and simmer for 4 hours, skimming as need to remove any scum that forms on the surface.

5. Remove the pot from the heat and, using a spider or slotted spoon, remove and discard the large solids. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container, let sit for a few minutes (or refrigerate overnight), then skim most of the fat from the surface (leave some, as it gives the stock better flavor and mouth-feel). Season to taste with salt.

6. Use immediately, or let cool completely, then transfer to practical-size airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Crispy Fried Shallots

Ingredients

  • 2 cups thinly sliced shallots (about 4 large shallots)
  • 2 cups canola oil

1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 275 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

2. Increase the heat to high and place a fine-mesh sieve over a heat-proof bowl. When the oil registers 350 degrees on the deep-fry thermometer, add the once fried shallots and cook until they are crispy and well-browned, about 1-2 seconds, watching carefully so the shallots don’t burn.

3. Immediately pour the oil and shallots through the sieve to stop the cooking, then transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve the oil for another use. The shallots will keep, stored in an airtight container for 1 day, but they’re best the day they are made.

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Diagnosis: Kale addiction

I’ve tried making kale chips before but that was long ago, before we became obsessed with kale. Now I can confess that these are pretty darn addictive. Also nice sprinkled over popcorn.

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Baked Kale Chips (Smitten Kitchen)

Adapted from a bunch of inspiring places

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale (I used Lacinato or “Dinosaur” Kale but I understand that the curlier stuff works, too, possibly even better)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I needed two because mine are tiny; I also lined mine with parchment for easy clean-up but there’s no reason that you must). Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

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Kale-Dusted Popcorn

If you’re making the chips with the intention to grind them up for popcorn, I’d use less oil — perhaps half — so they grind without the “powder” clumping. I ground a handful of my chips (about half) in a mortar and pestle (well, actually the “pestle” was MIA so I used the handle of an OXO reamer, not that anyone asked) and sprinkled it over popcorn (1/4 cup popcorn kernels I’d cooked in a covered pot with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, shaking it about with potholders frequently). I seasoned the popcorn with salt. I liked this snack, but I think Parmesan and Kale-Dusted Popcorn would be even more delicious. Next time!

Just in case you need it:

How to Pop Popcorn on the Stove (The Kitchn)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Equipment
Heavy-bottomed pot with lid

Instructions

1. Add the oil to a heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat.

2. Add three kernels.

3. When one or more of the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels and cover.

4. Gently shake the pot over the heat source to prevent the kernels from burning.

5. Continue shaking until most kernels have popped and you can’t hear many moving against the bottom of the pan.

6. Turn off the heat and continue to shake – a few stragglers will pop. Hold the lid over the pot for a few seconds in case of a last minute pop (which will send many more popped kernels flying across your kitchen).

7. Remove lid and enjoy!

Soba, so good

More Love & Lemons! This was easy and tasted great. And since I’m technically writing this from the future, I can say that I’ve already made it more than once. It also gives us a chance to use our new favorite noodle bowls with chopstick holders.

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Peanut Soba Noodles with Edamame and Kale (Love & Lemons)

serves 4
loosely adapted from the Tastespotting the blog

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz. soba noodles (or rice noodles if gluten free)
1 pound kale (5 or 6 large leaves), chopped
1 cup edamame (cooked and shelled)
3-4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
juice of one lime
1/4 cup crushed peanuts

sauce:
2 tablespoons peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1.5 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon honey (or agave or brown rice syrup)
zest of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon sriracha (or to taste)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, (to thin sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil

METHOD:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook noodles.

Whisk together sauce ingredients. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add chopped kale, cook for about 30 seconds (tossing it as you go – bringing wilted leaves from the bottom to the top). Add edamame and scallions. Cook, stirring, for about 30 more seconds. (you could also just blanch the vegetables…boiling water + ice water)

Pour in the dressing and noodles and toss together. (If your skillet isn’t large enough for this transfer to a large bowl).

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Stir in basil and cilantro. Squeeze lime on top and garnish with chopped peanuts.

Loving Love and Lemons

I recently stumbled upon a new food blog that is both visually fun and filled with healthy and delicious-looking recipes. Check out Love & Lemons. Husband and wife food bloggers? Aww… This was tasty and fun to make. Especially with our homemade tortillas! Any day that involves a tortilla press is a good day.

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Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce (Love & Lemons)

Serves 3 to 4

Glazed Sweet Potato Filling
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into small cubes
1 small red onion, chopped
Olive oil

Taco Fixings
Corn tortillas, 2 to 3 per person
Avocado, sliced
Sprouts
Cilantro
Chopped scallions
Toasted pepitas

Heat oven to 400°F. Whisk the miso paste, maple syrup, and vinegar together in a small bowl. Spread sweet potatoes and onions in a single layer on a baking sheet (you might need 2 baking sheets). Drizzle with a little olive oil, and then liberally brush the glaze over the vegetables.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The time will vary depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your sweet potato cubes. The onions will likely be done first so be sure to watch and take them out when they’re nicely browned but not burnt. When the sweet potatoes are finished, remove from the oven, taste and add another brushing of glaze if you wish.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with cilantro-coconut sauce (see below) and fixings such as avocado, sprouts, cilantro, and pepitas.

Cilantro-Coconut Sauce
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 scallion, green and white parts, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 small garlic clove
Splash of Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients together until just combined. Serve alongside the tacos.

Homemade Corn Tortillas (Love & Lemons)

So I learned 2 things in this experience:

First, and most importantly, I missed the step in the directions where once you mix your masa harina with water you need to let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The dehydrated corn flour needs time to rehydrate. This is an important step to getting a more pliable texture that won’t crumble when you go to press your tortillas. Don’t skip this step.

Second, some things just take a little bit of practice and patience. You might not necessarily get the “feel” of it the first time (or maybe you will if you’re just that good – but that’s what I had thought too).

makes about 16 tortillas that are 5-6 inches in diameter – even if you don’t need 16, I recommend starting with more (at least the first time) in case you mess some up.

This is the method that I found to work, based on the instruction (as best as I could follow) in Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen. He goes into more authentic detail. It’s a book worth having if you’re interested in learning more.

INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups masa harina (the Maseca brand seems to be the most popular)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
a few tablespoons of cold water, as needed

gadgets & materials:
a tortilla press, I have this one. (Or go without like she did – brave girl)
medium weight plastic – cut up plastic trash bags or storage bags (ie, NOT thin cling wrap)

METHOD:
Mix masa harina with the hot water. Cover and set aside on your countertop for at least 30 minutes.

While you’re waiting on that, cut your plastic into squares just larger than the surface of your tortilla press. (you’ll use 2 plastic pieces at a time – one for the top, one for the bottom). Cut up a bunch of plastic – I can sometimes get a few tortillas out of one round of plastic, but when they start to stick, it’s easier to start fresh again.

Have a margarita and continue to wait for your dough.

When your 30 minutes is up, form the dough into a ball, it’ll be a bit crumbly so add some cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft without being sticky. It should be similar in texture to play-doh. If you’ve added too much water, it’s ok, just add a little more of the corn flour.

Gently knead the dough to help it form into a semi-pliable ball (this is not pizza dough). Cut the ball into in half, and half again, etc, etc, until you have about 16 pieces. Roll them in your hands to form into little balls. Place on a plate and cover with plastic or a towel so they don’t dry out as you go.

Heat your pan or cast iron skillet to medium.

Place your plastic on both sides of your tortilla press (I spray mine lightly with a little canola spray – I’m not sure if this is completely necessary, but it works). Place your dough ball in the center and press down. You’re trying for a tortilla that is less than 1/8-inch thick. Lift the press up, and carefully peel the top layer of plastic off. Gently pick it up, flip the dough side down in your other hand and gently peel off the other side.

Place tortilla in your pan and cook for about 20 seconds until it releases. Flip, cook for 30 seconds more until it starts to brown. Flip again and cook for 30 seconds to a minute until your tortilla starts to puff up. If your tortilla puffs up, you’ve done well. Be careful not too overcook your tortilla or it’ll become dry and crack more.

Place finished tortillas in a towel or foil and cover to keep warm while you finish the rest. I generously salt mine before serving.

Street pasta

Another whack at one of the easier Street Food recipes. Loving this book. Excited to tackle some more adventurous recipes next. This one was simple and delicious. Beans in pasta? Yes!

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Ditalini Pasta with Roman Broccoli, White Beans, and Pecorino (Susan Feniger, Street Food)

  • 1 cup dried white beans
  • 2 ribs celery, peeled and cut into thirds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for tossing
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups ditalini pasta, or any small pasta
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. In a large saucepan set over high heat, combine the beans, celery, carrot, and whole garlic cloves. Cover with 10 cups of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and cook for another 30 minutes or until the beans are tender. Drain off the liquid and discard the pieces of carrot, celery, and garlic.

2. While the beans are cooking, prepare the broccoli rabe: Cut off and discard the bottom 2 inches (the thick ends) of the broccoli rabe. Cut the rest of the broccoli rabe into 2-inch pieces. Put it into a heavy-bottomed pot set over very low heat, and add the 1/4 cup olive oil, the chopped garlic, the cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes. The trick to keeping the broccoli rabe from becoming too bitter is to take your time and cook it slowly and evenly.

3. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons of water to the broccoli rabe. Stir, cover again, and cook for 8 minutes. It will appear overcooked and almost mushy — this is exactly what you’re looking for. Turn off the heat, leave the pan covered, and let the mixture steam for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 12 minutes or until al dente. Drain, toss lightly in olive oil to coat, and then spread the pasta out on a baking sheet to cool.

5. When you’re ready to serve the dish, combine the pasta, broccoli rabe, and beans in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the pecorino cheese and the lemon juice. Stir well to combine. Put the pasta mixture in a large serving bowl, or divide it among 4 smaller bowls. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino.