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 http://steamykitchen.com/271-vietnamese-beef-noodle-soup-pho.html
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.