Beef Pho

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Beef Pho
Serves 4
with thanks to The Woks of Life

Ingredients

  • 2 (3-inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 onions, peeled, cut in half
  • 5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into two 1-pound pieces
  • 4 scallions, cut into 4-inch lengths
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 2-1/2 ounces palm sugar (can sub rock sugar or granulated sugar)
  • 8 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh pho noodles
  • 1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin against the grain

Garnishes:

  • Sliced jalapeno peppers
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Chopped scallions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Thai basil
  • Lime wedges

Method

  1. Start by charring your ginger and onions. You can do this by a) using tongs to hold the ginger and onions over an open flame; b) place the vegetables directly on an electric burner; or c) putting the vegetables on a sheet pan under the oven broiler. Turn until they’re lightly blackened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Rinse away any blackened skins and set aside.
  1. Place the bones and beef chuck in large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and thoroughly clean the stockpot. This process will give you a much cleaner broth.
  1. Add 5 quarts fresh water back to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Transfer the bones and meat back to the pot, along with the charred/cleaned ginger and onions. Add the scallions, fish sauce and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat.
  1. Remove one piece of the chuck and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Transfer the beef to a container and refrigerate. Leave the other piece of chuck in the pot.
  1. Now toast the spices (star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds) in a dry pan over medium low heat for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Use kitchen string to tie up the spices in a piece of cheesecloth, and add it to the broth.
  1. Continue simmering for another 8 hours – minimum – adding bits of water to maintain liquid level as needed. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the rest of the dish. Taste broth and adjust seasoning by adding more salt, sugar, and/or fish sauce as needed. Strain, if desired (see notes).
  1. To serve, add noodles to each bowl. Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and ladle it into each bowl. The hot broth will cook the beef. Garnish with your toppings, and be sure to squeeze a lot of fresh lime juice over the top!

NOTES

I barely know what to say. I never ever dreamed that I would make pho at home that tasted this perfect, flawless, the broth as good as any Vietnamese restaurant I ate at in SoCal. Seriously, THAT GOOD. I almost cried. Yep.

Not gonna lie. The initial stages take a bit of effort. But it’s a labor of love. And once you get to the point of leaving it to simmer, it pretty much takes care of itself after that. I did add a cup of water nearly ever hour to keep it from simmering away too much (my stove runs hot, even on low), and in the end I strained the broth to make it easier to serve, though you certainly don’t have to if you’d like to skip another step. I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

I can’t wait to eat this again.

Sausage Gravy

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Sausage Gravy
courtesy of Self Proclaimed Foodie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spicy pork breakfast sausage (store-bought is fine, but I highly recommend you make your own, see below)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Buttermilk biscuits, for serving

Method

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the sausage until brown and crumbly. If excess oil, drain while keeping a solid tablespoon of the sausage oil in the pan. Add the butter and stir well until melted.

Reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle sausage with flour, stir, and allow to cook for several minutes.

Add the milk and stir. Continue stirring occasionally over medium heat until gravy thickens, 5-10 minutes. Add fresh ground black pepper, as desired.

Serve over buttermilk biscuits.

NOTES

HOLY. MOLY. Never did I think I would be able to make sausage gravy and biscuits equivalent to those served in roadside diners in the south, but this was IT. If I had known how easy it was, I would have started making this long ago. Insanely good. Easy easy. And you can cut the recipe right in half or double it with the same result (though the thickening time will be less/more if you do so). Going to keep this one on hand for life.

If you want to make your own sausage, as I did, this is a great recipe:

Spicy Breakfast Sausage

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Method

In a small bowl, mix together all the seasonings until well combined. Add the ground pork and work in the seasonings with your hands or a fork, until evenly distributed.

Crock Pot Ham and Bean Soup

img_5945Crock Pot Ham and Bean Soup
very slightly modified from Spend with Pennies

Ingredients

  • 1 package Hurst’s® HamBeens® 15 Bean Soup® with flavor packet
  • 8 cups chicken stock (can substitute other stock, broth, or water)
  • 1 leftover ham bone with meat (plus enough diced ham steak to make about 1 lb. of meat total for the soup; if no hambone available, a full 1 lb of diced ham or smoked sausage can be used)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • Optional for serving: scallions, hot sauce, rice, cornbread, corn chips

Method

Rinse beans and drain. Sort any unwanted debris and set seasoning packet aside.

Place beans, stock, ham bone, onions, garlic, chile powder, and thyme in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Cook on high 4-5 hours (or low 7-8 hours), or until beans are tender.

Once tender, remove the ham bone (if used) and chop any meat left on the bone and add it back to the pot, along with any additional diced ham steak to make 1 lb. of meat for the soup.

Stir in diced tomatoes and Ham Flavor packet.

Cook for an additional hour on low.

Serve with scallions, hot sauce, rice, cornbread, etc., as desired.

NOTES

This was so damn good! It’s hard not to have something fabulous on your hands when beans and leftover ham are involved. I am kicking myself for not having scallions to top it with – big oversight on my part – but the side of hatch chile cornbread was a pretty fantastic pairing all on its own. I will definitely make this again, with or without a leftover hambone!

Creamed Spinach

img_5467img_5470Creamed Spinach
courtesy of Food.com

Ingredients

White Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Spinach

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sweet onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 20 ounces frozen spinach, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

In a saucepan melt butter over medium low heat until sizzling. Add garlic, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg; saute for about 1 minute, but do not brown the garlic. Whisk in the flour and salt until creamed together and smooth. Stir in the half and half a little at a time. Increase heat to medium and constantly whisk until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. Remove from heat; set aside.

Place 2 tbsp butter in saucepan over medium heat; add the minced onion, and cook until transparent. Add spinach and water to pan, lower the heat, and saute for another few minutes, stirring until the spinach is cooked.

When the spinach is almost done, add the pepper, prepared white sauce, sour cream and parmesan cheese. Stir well, and simmer until completely blended. Season with more salt and pepper, as needed.

NOTES

This was the best creamed spinach in the history of creamed spinach. It really does taste just like the Boston Market stuff, which is what made me fall in love with creamed spinach in the first place. So so so good, I could almost eat a big bowl for dinner on its own.

Pro tip: can easily be doubled without changing any ratios. Comes out just the same.

Szechuan Chicken and Snap Peas

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Szechuan Chicken and Snap Peas
courtesy of the book Good Fast Eats from Belly Full

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. snap peas
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 (8-oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • cooked white rice, for serving

Method

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin, honey, and chili garlic sauce, Set aside.

Heat oil in large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add ground chicken, cook until browned and no pink remains, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add in snap peas, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 3 minutes. Pour in the rice wine vinegar; when it is mostly evaporated, give the soy sauce mixture a stir and add it to the pan, along with the water chestnuts. Sauté for another 3-4 more minute. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Serve over cooked white rice.

NOTES

Gotta admit – I knew this one would be good, but I did not expect it would become one of my new favorite stir fry dishes. SO GOOD! For all its simplicity, it is just packed with flavor – and, bonus, it comes together lightning quick. Going to blast this one on repeat on my weekly menu for a while!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Sweet and Sour Chicken
courtesy of Good Fast Eats from Belly Full

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 tbsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 (8-oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • cooked white rice, for serving

Method

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch and water, until combined. Whisk in the rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, and reserved pineapple juice.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Toss the chicken with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, and season with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook without stirring for 2-3 minutes. Mix and continue to sauté for another 6-7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and onion to the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes until vegetables soften and get a bit charred. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the sweet and sour mixture, along with the pineapple chunks. Cook for another 1-2 minutes to warm through and allow sauce to thicken. Add chicken back to skillet and stir to combine.

Serve over cooked white rice.

NOTES

I cannot remember how many years it’s been since I had takeout sweet and sour – mostly because it was usually so greasy and goopy that it no longer had any appeal.

But THIS one. This is way, way better – light and fresh, easy, delicious. Big thanks to Belly Full for making me remember why I loved this dish in the first place.

Spicy Beef Taquitos

img_2513img_4519Spicy Beef Taquitos

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 large jalapeno, stemmed and seeded ,very finely diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chunky salsa
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4 ounces roasted hatch chiles, finely chopped (or sub 4-oz can diced green chiles)
  • 3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 small flour tortillas
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Method

Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and then lightly mist it with cooking spray and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add beef and cook, breaking into very small chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add jalapeno, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook until jalapeno and onion are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add spices, salsa, sour cream, and hatch chiles. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the shredded cheese. Stir to combine.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 20-30 seconds until they are warm and pliable. Distribute filling, roll, place on baking sheet. Spray the tops of the taquitos lightly with cooking spray. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until tortillas are dark golden and crispy.

NOTES

I made these two weeks in a row and am probably going for a third. Steve says I need to put them on the weekly menu from now to infinity. Seriously, they are that good. Contemplating trying them with pulled pork or shredded chicken next.