Archive for 18 December 2011

Getting to pho …

18 December 2011

Well, long hiatus. We won’t go into the details.

Recently, a friend expressed interest in making a good pho broth at home. We’ve spent some time trying different versions (Modernist Cuisine’s version is pretty darn good) and tinkering with them, and are starting to narrow it down. In the meantime, here’s one we’re getting close to being happy with.

Onions and Ginger

Onions and ginger charred with a propane torch. A gas grill would have done a better job.

  • 1t black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick (we liked the Mexican kind)
  • 3 cloves star anise
  • 1/2t allspice (ground)
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds oxtail (jointed)
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds beef short ribs (separated between the bones)
  • 2 medium/large white onions (a little over a pound)
  • 1/4 pound ginger
  • 2 – 3 quarts water
  • lime, sugar, salt, fish sauce to taste

Briefly toast the spices in a pan and reserve. Rinse any dirt off of the onions and cut them in half, leaving the skin on. Rinse and then cut the (unpeeled) ginger in half. Using a gas torch, a very hot dry pan, an outdoor grill, or the burner on your range,  char the onion and ginger.

Sear the oxtails and short ribs in a pressure cooker or stock pot, in batches if needed. Return all the meat to the pot, and add the charred onion and ginger, the toasted spices (in a sachet if you wish), and the water. Bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum or foam that comes to the surface.

  • If you’re using a pressure cooker, seal the cover, and bring the pressure to 1 bar (maximum). Adjust the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Don’t vent the cooker. When the 30 minutes is up, remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to drop naturally (i.e. no cold water or venting).
  • If you are using a traditional stock pot, cover the broth and adjust the heat so that it is barely simmering. Cook for at least 90 minutes, periodically skimming any foam from the surface.

Remove the cover, and carefully strain the broth into another container. Adjust the seasoning with the lime, sugar, salt, and fish sauce. Cool to room temperature, then transfer individual portions to ziplock-style bags and either refrigerate or freeze.

Optionally, you can clarify the stock using a ground beef, egg, and mirepoix raft. This makes it looks absolutely stunning and intensifies the beef flavor of the broth.

Let us know any tweaks you make and how it turns out.