I woke up last weekend with a fire under me, and decided to make pho. A lovely Vietnamese dish, with a beautiful French twist. France has a unique global history of occupation, and culinary influence, that can be seen all over the world from their many conquests. Pho being one of those diamonds glistening in the rough of their occupation of Vietnam. My favorite part of pho, is it’s depth of flavors. Meaty broths mixed with the sweet scents of spices, and bold taste of the fresh herbs and lime. Before I started I figured it was going to be easy enough to make in about an hour, until I caught wind of the fact that I wasn’t just sticking some bullion cubes into a pot. I would be simmering down meat and bone, extracting the amazing flavor of beef from the soul of the cow (Cow souls are delicious. It was a lengthy process).
Ingredients: For Broth
1lb ox tail
1 beef shank
2 or 3 beef shin bone cuts
1 onion halfed and seared
1 large knuckle of ginger, seared
2 tbsp salt
2 heaped table spoons of granulated sugar (or if you can find them white sugar rocks)
10 Star anise seed pods
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods (black cardamom if you can find it)
2 whole nutmeg seeds
For soup preparation
Thai Basil Leaves
Your finely sliced meat of choice
I set to work researching to create the most flavorful broth I could find. I chose ox tail, shin bone and beef shank for my meats. The key to starting your pho is searing in flavors. I threw my shank and my ox tail in to an empty pot on high, and cooked them on both sides. I then added the shin, and filled my pot with water, left the stove on high, and boiled out all the impurities. Pho should be clear. Once your hot beef water gets several mounds of frothy nastiness on it (after about 10 to 15 minutes of boiling) empty out your pot and wash all of your bones off. This takes away most of what will cause that murky appearance to your broth. Hopefully. One other thing that will give you an edge, is maintaining a very light simmer after your second boiling, and NOT stirring it. Fill your pot again, add approximately 2 tablespoons of salt and boil for another 10 minutes, continuing to ladle off anymore meat sludge that chooses to surface. Drop your heat to a low simmer, and add seared onions and ginger. I used my butane torch for the searing. The torch is not only entertaining, but actually quite effective at this task. Walk away at this point for no less than 5 hours. What you should return to is a thick stew. Remove your bones and meats, and strain your broth. I became concerned about the amount of fat glistening across the surface. I weighed my options, and thought that the fridge would be my best bet to make the fats, and other tidbits rise up and solidify.
I woke up the next morning, and peered into my bowl, initially excited to see that the fat had indeed risen to the surface. My next surprise was that I had created a bowl of gelatinous meat goo, or beef consomme. After scraping off my fat, I threw it back into a pot, and added several cups of water. Next came toasted spices. Star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg seeds, fennel, whole black cardamom and a few tablespoons of sugar. (If you can get your hot little hands on white sugar rock I recommend going that route. It is usually available in Asian markets.) These toasted tidbits should simmer for about an hour or two. Finally it was time to strain it one last time through a cheese cloth (french for paper towel). This was my last effort to really clarify my broth. It worked quite well.
I served it up with my favorite seafood, herbs, jalapenos, and lime, and pondered over the all of the new recipes I could try with my new found friend, beef consomme.