This past week I took a dive into some Asian-inspired cuisine. I made Pho and roasted duck for two separate occasions, and I was quite happy with the results. Christmastime and Asian food really do go hand in hand in my opinion.
A while back my husband Brent and I watched an episode of Luke Nugyn’s Vietnam on the Cooking Channel. Luke seems like a kind and well-versed chef who originally is from Vietnam. His episodes usually take place with him cooking (or interviewing) on the road-side or behind the shop of a countryside or urban restaurant, with horns honking and chickens running about as he prepares delicious, authentic food. I get a kick out of his episodes and enjoy the beauty of the people, landscape and culture of Vietnam. When living in Phoenix (of all places!), we fell in love with Pho (pronounced fuh). It’s a delicious slow-cooked Vietnamese soup that we seem to incorporate into our lives at least once a week now that we’re living in (cold) Washington!
Well, who knew that making Pho is traditionally prepared all night? Better be good soup to loose sleep over! We learned from Chef Luke, and the Vietnamese family that he was cooking with, that the best Pho takes at least 12 hours to prepare the broth. And boy is it all about the broth — a symphony of delicious spices and aromatics and fish sauce enveloped in a homemade beef broth. One huge benefit of Pho is that it is both gluten and soy free (two things Brent has to avoid). Rice noodles are used and there really isn’t a need for soy since there is so much flavor going on. Anyway, back to last week.
I wanted to make Pho (since my husband, my friend Rachel and I are Pho junkies right now) however, I didn’t have 12 hours nor did I have the time to babysit a pot for 5 – 6 hours. I knew I needed a slow cooker recipe and I happened to find a great Pho recipe online at the SteamyKitchen. I about fell over when I discovered that I had all of the spices (yes, even the star anise) and all I had to buy were some rice noodles and bones!
This is a recipe for a 6.5 quart (or larger) slow cooker “crock pot.” To thinly sliced meat for the bowls, try freezing the chunk of meat for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing. Or if the meat is already thoroughly frozen, take out of the freezer and let sit at room temperature for about an hour before slicing. They key is to have the slices of meat super-thin. So, here’s the recipe that’s been slightly adapted (by yours truly).
Now onto the duck. We were invited to a Christmas party this past weekend. And the brilliant thing about it, was there was a theme: the movie “A Christmas Story”!! (Thanks Luz and Cole for a great evening!) Yes we drank Ovaltine and sang carols and we ate Chinese food, of course. Remember the scene where the Parker family eats at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day? The servers sing Christmas carols to the poor Parker family, whose Christmas turkey was destroyed by the Bumpuses’ (the Parkers’ hillbilly neighbors) dogs. After singing, the family is introduced to Christmas dinner – a whole duck with head and eyes intact! (Quite a scary introduction to roasted duck for Americans.)
So take 2 minutes, and click on this link to see the famous “Restaurant Scene” from ‘A Christmas Story!’ Then come back and I’ll tell ya how I made the duck.
I really wanted to use our smoker to smoke the duck. But that would have required way too many stops at too many stores. I just didn’t have the time. So we ended up roasting the duck. But yeah… that duck. Couldn’t find duck at all the “regular” grocery stores. Had to hit up the local Asian mega-market… H MART! (Can I tell ya how much we love Asian markets?!?! So awesome!) We bought a duck. We just had to. And yes… the head, smile, eyes were on him. And, his webbed feet were also there. I jumped just a bit when handling him. I had to remind myself that I’ve dissected cats, and pigs, and frogs, so I could truss a duck who was smiling at me.
I must strongly recommend you read The Hungry Mouse’s “The Best Way to Roast a Duck” post. It’s practically perfect! My duck was a bit smaller than 6 lbs, so I actually cut the cooking time down by a full hour. I recommend you take a temperature check after two hours of roasting, maybe once every 45 minutes to an hour, just to be sure you’re not over cooking. (What’s up with recipes always calling for overcooked meat? Sometimes they’re just crazy, but then sometimes, your meat is smaller. So do check!)
I hope you are inspired to start on your own Pho or roasted duck (or any Asian cuisine!) this Christmastime too!