Easy and Delicious Slow Cooker Pho

If there’s one food I eat at least once a week (besides wine), it’s pho. That’s right, the butt of all “pho-king” jokes people make. I’m not going to make those jokes, even though now that we’ve talked about it, I want to. The reason people make those jokes is because pho is delicious. It’s so delicious that “delicious” doesn’t do it justice, so you want to call it “effin’ delicious.” The pun digresses from there, but don’t let it fool you. It really is that good.

If you’ve had really good pho (pronounced phuh, not foe), you know the kind of tasty glory we’re talking about. If you’ve never had pho, or maybe if you’ve only had bad pho, you probably think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. If you don’t like pho, I call you crazy, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be best friends.

The main reason this Vietnamese noodle soup is so effin’ delicious is because of the slow-cooked, spice-infused beef broth. It warms you up from the inside out, in a way that feels like your soul or the souls of a thousand Vietnamese grandmothers are warming you with hugs and comforting words. Pho makes you feel better when you are sick, it makes you feel reassured on a cold, rainy day, and it has a way of making the world sit upright again when you’ve had a bad day. It’s one of those things that hits on every part of your tongue; sweet, spicy, tart, salty, and umami. If you’re not familiar with umami flavors, think about steak, bacon, mushrooms, soy sauce and the hearty, meaty flavors they add to any dish. That savory depth of flavor is umami, and the secret to my homemade pho lies within maximizing this element.

I’m not sure of the “proper” way to make pho, though I’d love to learn. I just know what I’ve tasted and what I’ve read over the past year or so since I started researching it. I’ve made a more traditional style broth before, but I’m going out of town and wanted to use up a few extra ingredients I had sitting around, namely shitake mushrooms. The additions I made added a ton of flavor, so while this recipe may seem a little off if you’re into pho making, it’s what I made yesterday and posted on Instagram. I got a number of comments on Instagram, Twitter and text about the recipe, so I figured I’d share even if it’s not 100% “correct.” It was delicious, effin’ delicious (!), and that’s really all that matters, right?

In order to get maximum umami flavor, I used a combination of shitake mushrooms, kombu (an awesome sea vegetable), beef bones and meat. If you only have two out of three of these, it will probably still work fine, but I like a really deep and complex umami flavor in my soup, so I used them all. You could taste the subtle nuances of each, and the addition of the spices made for a layered broth that wowed me with each bite. I hope you like it, too.

Do you make pho at home? What style broth do you like? How do you make yours, and what would you differently with mine?

Easy Slow Cooker Pho from Stirringthingsupblog.com

 

Easy and Delicious Slow Cooker Pho Broth

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 4 1×3 inch pieces of kombu
  • 2 large beef soup bones (preferably with marrow intact)
  • 8 oz beef meat (you can easily use leftover steak or whatever you have on hand – I used top sirloin)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped lemongrass
  • 1 3″ piece ginger, sliced or chopped into large pieces
  • 4 pieces whole cardamom
  • 4 pieces whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 pieces whole star anise
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce

To complete the soup:

  • vermicelli rice noodles (1-2 cups cooked noodles per person)
  • sliced beef (eye of round, flank, brisket, etc all work well)
  • sliced jalapeño
  • mung bean sprouts
  • herbs (cilantro, Thai basil, and mint are all relatively standard)
  • lime wedges
  • housin sauce
  • rooster sauce or sambal oelek

Directions:

  1. Toss all the broth ingredients into a large slow cooker and cook on low for 9 hours. (You can cook on high for 4 hours, but I recommend the low setting to slowly extract the flavors, creating a more complex soup.)
  2. When the broth is finished, remove the soup bones and discard. Strain the broth through a fine metal sieve and reserve.  Reserve the mushrooms from the strainer and discard the rest.
  3. Slice the mushrooms and use them as a soup garnish. Assemble the soup by adding the noodles, beef and mushrooms to an extra-large soup bowl. Then, add half the broth (about 4 cups) and top with the garnishes of your choice. Enjoy with chopsticks for meat and noodles and a large Asian soup spoon for the broth.

Is there anything better? Pho-get about it!

Cocktail of the Month: Blood Orange Hot Toddy

Do you know how cold it was when I left for work this morning? ONE degree. I mean, what’s the point? Might as well be zero degrees. Might as well not have degrees at all, because it’s not like my “safe to 20 degrees below” wiper fluid followed the rules. Nope, that huge sheet of ice on my windshield only grew after each hopeful spray. I hadn’t had coffee, I couldn’t see out my window, and I was cold. While the temperature reached 33 at one point today, the chill in my toes never left, so I knew I needed a warm drink when I got home. My absolute favorite warm cocktail is a hot toddy, but I was out of lemons, so I made up a twist on the classic and ended up loving it even more! Continue reading

Delicious Crème Brûlée

My stepdad turned 50 last weekend, and my mom threw him a day-long celebration that started with surprise visits from out-of-town family and ended with drinks at a nice bar with their work friends. Since I’ve been baking so much lately (and loving it), I offered to bake his birthday cake for his special day. However, instead of a birthday cake, my mom suggested I make my stepdad’s favorite dessert: crème brûlée! Continue reading