Friday, September 18, 2009

October Daring Cooks Challenge - Vietnamese Pho

This is my first Daring Cook's challenge. I decided to sign up because Elizabeth was so excited about the Daring Baker's challenge and I thought it would get me out of my cooking rut more than for my once a month Cookbook Club.

The challenge sign-up process is a bit confusing. I actually signed up in August but too late for the September challenge so I had to wait for the October challenge. At first I thought I was going to be cooking Vegan Indian (not my thing at all) but it turns out that was September's challenge. (confusing as I said) and I opened up the new challenge to find Vietnamese Pho.

I love Vietnamese food, especally Pho. I went through a Southeast Asian phase a few years back after we got back from Thailand. We cooked everything we could get our hands on. We have a number of Pho places in Baltimore and not having made Pho before I thought it would be fun to give this one a try.

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. The recipe for Jaden's Vietnamese Pho: Beef Noodle Soup can be found here

I started by gathering all of the ingredients. It turned out the only things I needed to buy were the ginger and the bean sprouts. I have a fetish for the H-Mart asian market which is about 1/2 hour from my house. They have so many neat things there that I usually end up picking up many of them. We get our beef from a local producer called Roseda so I used the beef from there. And yes, I even had the rock sugar tucked away in the back of the cabinet.

Broiling the onions and ginger took longer than the 10 minutes and my rack was a bit higher than Steamy Kitchen's so the skins fried, but I felt that the broiling and burnt parts gave it a great flavor.

I boiled the bones for 10 minutes first like she suggested, I'm thinking this made my broth much clearer, as much of the foam was already boiled off when I drained and refilled the pot for the cooking of the stock.

The seasoning packet was lovely, and sent wonderful smells coursing through the house all morning. I prepared the vegetable tray, adding fresh cucumber and completely forgetting to pick the cinnamon basil I had meant to put on the tray. The pho was lovely and the combination of the rare and well done meats along with the crunch of the bean sprouts and the cucumbers made it delightful.

So my sweetie was at the neighborhood party and was telling people I was making Pho and Carol and Ben from across the street said "oh we know the best Pho!!" Sure enough, the next day they showed up with pho from Pho Heip Hoa in Wheaton, MD.

Renee and I did a taste test.
We found the pho from the restaurant to be a lighter clearer, more citrusy broth (yes I strained mine), while mine had a meatier and more anisette flavor. They were both delicious and the pork that Carol's pho had in it helped as well. I didn't want to deviate from the recipe or mine would have had pork too. I think it could have used it.
I froze the rest of the pho so we should have tasty dinner one night when I really don't feel like cooking in the near future. All in all a very successful first Daring Cooks Challenge.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If you're not going camping...

Four couples, 3 children and one dog were scheduled to go camping this weekend. We wimped out due to busy schedules, rain, and health care demonstrations, but decided that instead we would all get together for an island themed dinner.

Jake, being the person who spends the most time in the islands, was put in charge of "island drinks" and mixed us up a beautiful punch bowl full of hurricanes to start the night. Each couple was assigned courses and my sweetie and I provided the PIG!

This was our first foray into suckling pig. We purchased him from Treuths in Catonsville and boy was he beautiful. Since this was island themed we decided that a lime mojo marinade was in order. We soaked Mr. Pig in vinegar and water (2/3 cup vinegar and water to cover) for 3 hours and then made up the marinade.

Lime Oregano Mojo

1 pig (ours was 21 lbs)
Juice of 12 limes
2/3 cup orange juice
juice of 2 lemons (I ran out of limes)
1/2 cup chopped cuban oregano (also called spanish thyme)
6 tbsp kosher salt
lots of grated pepper
2 heads (not cloves) heads of garlic, chopped.

We mixed the marinade together and poured into a trash bag. We marinated him overnight flipping twice. Our pig just fit in the oven. We preheated the oven to 425 and put him in for 15 minutes. Then we reduced the temp to 300 and cooked him for another 5 hours or so, basting with the marinade every 1/2 hour. The last hour was on convection and we slathered him in butter to crisp the skin.

Along with the pig Josh and Joanie made an island pumpkin casserole that was delish and a lovely green salad with papaya and avocado. Mandi made sweet potato and black bean cakes with a lime sour cream dipping sauce that I just finished for dinner now, tasty!! We also made an adobo sauce and garlic rice to go with.

Chris came through with the beautiful 6 foot banana leaves from his garden and we ate right on the leaves. Clean up was a cinch (Thanks Pam).

Chris also made mangos and sticky rice for dessert. Two types of sticky rice, black and white made for a fetching background to the orange mangos with the white coconut sauce. Sorry to say, I had one too many hurricanes at that point so we did not get a good picture but you can see the sticky rice waiting to be cut.

I do have a picture of Jake mixing up the rum cream/vanilla vodka drinks that were part of the dessert mix. As you can see, they contained many types of delicious island liqueurs.

All in all a delicious substitute for camping.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Charm City CBC Post

Just posted my first post to the Charm City Cookbook Club blog. We're really jazzed to have a communal blog for our CBC posts after almost 2 years. Strawberries is almost done with her post as well.
Here we are cooking away in my kitchen. In light of the shrimp and sangria levels, this was very early in the evening...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Really bored with yellow

I got tired of the same old yellow blog so I changed it over to green. Back from vacation and hope to be posting again soon. I've joined the Daring Kitchen cooking (not the baking the new cooking) challenge which should start midway though next month and won't be posted until October 14th, ah well. Strawberries in Paris motivated me. The rules are quite strict, you must cook 8 out of 12 a year and you have to let them know that you're not posting the months that you don't. So my challenge to me is, can I keep it up for a year. Did Charm City Cookbook Club without breaking for a year so why not? Let's hope I post before October 14th now......