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).
- 4 pounds beef bones
- 1/2 onion
- 4 inch section of ginger, sliced
- 1 package Vietnamese Pho Spices (or as many of these spices as you have: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole coriander, 1 teaspooon fennel, 3 whole star anise, 3 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod)
- 9 cups water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 16 ounces fresh or dried rice noodles
- 1/2 pound chicken or beef (flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round steak, sliced as thinly as possible)
- 1-2 limes, cut into wedges
- 1 cup cilantro
- 12 Thai basil leaves
- 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce
- Bring a large stockpot with water to boil over high heat. Add the beef bones and boil vigourously for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat a medium sized pan over medium-low heat. Add the Vietnamese Pho Spices and toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Put the spices in the slow cooker immediately.
- Return frying pan to stove and increase to medium-high heat, adding 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger slices and the onion half. Cook until the ginger is browned on both sides and the onion half is nicely browned and softened. Add the ginger and the onion to the slow cooker.
- After the bones have been pre-boiled for 10 minutes (step 1), DRAIN AND DISCARD the water and rinse bones briefly to clean them. Add the bones to the slow cooker on top of the spices and aromatics.
- Fill the slow cooker with fresh, clean, cool water to just 1-1/2 inches below surface, then add the fish sauce and sugar.
- Cover and set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours. Taste and season with additional fish sauce and kosher salt, if desired.
- Just prior to eating, prep the rest of the ingredients for the Pho bowls. Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions. Drain immediately and divide into 4 serving bowls.
- After 8 hours, strain the stock with a fine meshed sieve, discarding the solids.
- If using chicken, season slices with kosher salt and pepper. Cook slices through in a frying pan over medium-high heat (with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil or butter) for 1 - 3 minutes on each side, depending on the thinness of the slice.
- Line up 4 large bowls on counter. Distribute the noodles, cooked chicken or raw thin steak slices evenly among the bowls. Ladle the hot Pho stock into each bowl. The hot stock will cook the thin steak slices.
- Serve with lime wedges, fresh herbs, chili peppers, the Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce mix at the table.
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!)
- 1 6 lb duck, cleaned and washed
- 1 orange, zested, then cut in 1/2
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons rice wine (mirin) or sherry
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
- Normally you roast a duck for 3 to 4 hours at 300 degrees. After that time, glaze and cook it at high heat for a short time. (Again, see this post for detailed photos of each step.) Here are the basic steps:
- Score the duck's skin, cut off excess fat, and poke it all over
- Salt (inside and out) and truss
- Roast at 300 degrees for 1 hour, breast-side up
- Poke, flip, temperature check, and roast for 1 hour, breast-side down
- Poke, flip, temperature check, and roast for 1 hour, breast-side up
- Poke, flip, roast for 1 hour, breast side down (skip this final hour if duck is smaller)
- Poke, flip, blast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, breast-side up
- Make glaze during final hour & then brush with glaze
- Finish at 500 degrees for 5 minutes
- Rest for 20 minutes, carve & serve
- The duck should reach 165 degrees F (or 160 F if you think it'll reach 165 F due to residual heat.)
- Juice the orange and mix with all the other ingredients (except for the duck): orange zest, onion, honey, molasses, rice wine vinegar, rice wine, soy, ginger, and five-spice powder in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil then immediately remove from the burner. Use to glaze the duck in the final roasting minutes.
I hope you are inspired to start on your own Pho or roasted duck (or any Asian cuisine!) this Christmastime too!