Friday, October 23, 2009

First Blogiversary!

Happy Blogiversary!!  Can you believe it has been one year since I started this blog?  To  reminisce over the past year, I went back and re-read many posts and I'm so happy to have these memories digitzied forever.  It has been quite a year.  I think this is a year and an era that we will look back on for years to come.  Our children will ask us about the Great Recession and the year that Obama took office.  I will remember it as the year I went to London and Barcelona, bought a house, and started a new job.  This is certainly a year that will go down in history, and though I don't write about politics or the economy (just mentioned some of the stimuli), I'm glad I can look back on this year of change with clarity and fondness and of course, remember all the food.

I've settled on two things to celebrate my blog milestone.  The first, is to make my favorite vietnamese soup, known as pho, from scratch.  And the second, to reenforce my dedication to the blog, I am going to participate in Nablopomo in November.  Basically, this means I will commit to writing a post a day for the whole month.  It will be a challenge, but if there is one thing I've learned from the past year, it's the more posts the better!

So back to the pho.  I get this soup on a very regular basis from either Saigon or #1 Pho, but I was very intimidated to try making it myself.  It has such complex flavors and I really wouldn't know where to start.  But I have been cooking out of the Food and Wine 2007 Annual Cookbook this week and I came upon this recipe and it didn't seem too bad.  It does require the broth to be refridgerated overnight and a trip to the Asian Market, but overall, it wasn't complicated, it turned out amazing, and I will definitely make it again.  However, with local restaurants offering the quick and inexpensive pho, I think I will save it for special occasions.

Spiced Beef Pho with Sesame-Chile Oil
6 Servings

Beef Broth

4 lbs. oxtails or beef short ribs (I used short ribs)
18 cups water
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved
one 3-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
2 bay leaves
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
one 2-inch piece of rock sugar or 6 sugar cubes
kosher salt
4 whole cloves
4 star anise pods, broken up
2 tsp. fennel seeds

In a large soup pot, cover the oxtails with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; drain.  Add the 18 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a small nonstick skillet.  Add the onion halves and the ginger, cut sides down, and cook over moderately high heat until richly browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the onion and ginger to the oxtail pot with the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, rock sugar and 1 tbsp of salt.  Put the cloves, star anise and fennel seeds in a tea ball or tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth.  Add them to the oxtail pot and simmer, skimming occasionally, until the oxtails are tender, about 2 hours.  Strain the broth in a large sieve set over a large heatproof bowl.  Remove the meat from the oxtails.  Refrigerate the beef broth and the oxtail meat separately overnight.

Sesame-Chili Oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and sesame seeds and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sesame oil and a pinch of salt.

Soup Garnishes

1 pound rice vermicelli
1 pound beef round, partially frozen and very thinly sliced across the grain
Asian fish sauce
Asian sesame oil
Sriracha chile oil
Lime wedges
Cilantro sprigs
Basil leaves
Onion slices
Chile slices
Escarole leaves
Mung bean sprouts

I garnished with thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, and the sesame-chili oil

Assembling the soup:  Put the rice vermicelli in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the vermicelli soak until pliable, about 20 minutes.  Skim the fat from the surface of the beef broth and discard. Bring the broth to a simmer over moderately high heat. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Place the thinly sliced raw beef in a large strainer and lower it into the simmering broth for 4 seconds; transfer the meat to 6 soup bowls. Drain the vermicelli. Working in 6 batches, put the vermicelli in the strainer and lower it into the boiling water for 30 seconds, or until the vermicelli is barely tender. Drain and transfer to the bowls. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the broth over each bowl of vermicelli and add the chilled oxtail meat.  Put each of the remaining ingredients in seperate bowls or arrange the vegetables and herbs together on a platter. Serve the soup with the condiments and the sesame-chile oil.

After reflecting on the past year, I think now would be a good time to think about what goals I have for the next year.  There are lots of house projects to do, many of which are under way already.  Career-wise I have a new job to adjust to and I want to get serious about going back to school for my MBA.  And personally, I want this to be the year I get a pet, settle in with CC and do lots of entertaining (now that I finally have some space to do it in).   I hope you decide to stay tuned!!

1 comment:

mcm.hannah said...

what do you mean by 'settle in' with CC?