Pho 2

It seems only right we both love food. After all, our friendship began with a spoon of key lime yogurt. But in the last 17 years, our taste buds have grown considerably. Thank goodness. 

Lara Louis has one of those incredibly discerning palates. She can pick out the slightest hint of goat cheese or the smallest fleck of cilantro. (Both of which she hates, so don’t even think of trying to sneak them in.)

When she invited me to a lamb party, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than belly filling goodness. It was a lamb extravaganza. There’s this group of oddball guys who have all met through one avenue or another. They’re a pretty quirky, fantastically intelligent, and hilariously funny bunch who love to cook. Every month or so, they get together for a from-scratch, kitchen intensive, small stomachs beware event.
My first introduction to the group was lamb. They bought the whole sucker. The legs. The liver. The chops. And they went crazy preparing it. So when I heard about the upcoming pho party, I knew I had to be there.

The broth. Goodness, it was heavy with the taste of marrow. A slight hint of sweetness came through in its scent and with the bright acidic touch of lime, it was a bowl full of heaven. 

Now I have to admit, I had tried to make pho on my own before. “Tried” being the operative word. I cut a few corners, skipped a few ingredients, and definitely missed the mark. But thanks to these boys and a little brain picking persistence, I made pho again. Bowl. Full. Of. Heaven.

Thank goodness for Lara Louis and her invite! 

Serves 8

2 onions, halved and skin removed
4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
½ TBS olive oil
3 lbs of beef knuckles
2 lbs oxtail
1 lb beef chuck, cut into chunks
6 quarts of water
1 cinnamon stick
½ TBS coriander seeds
½ TBS fennel seeds
3 whole star anise
2 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
1 ½ TBS salt
¼ cup fish sauce
1 TBS sugar

The Bowls
2 lbs rice noodles, cooked according to package
½ lb flank steak, sliced thinly
½ cup chopped mint, cilantro, or basil (choose 1 or all 3)
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big hands full of bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot sauce

Making Broth
Turn your broiler on high and position the rack at the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on a baking sheet. Brush the cut side of each with olive oil. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and char opposite side. (About 15 minutes.)

Bring 6-quarts of cold water to a boil in a 12-quart stockpot. Add bones and continue to boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain bones. Rinse stockpot and bones.
Note: Parboiling the bones is really important. Don’t skip this step. It helps remove excess scum from the bones, creating a clean broth. 

Return bones to pot. Add oxtail. Cover with 6 to 7-quarts cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and return to simmer. Add beef chuck, ginger, onion, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, cloves, salt, fish sauce, and sugar.

Lightly simmer broth for 6-hours, uncovered. Remove bones and strain broth through a fine mesh sieve. Taste broth and adjust seasonings as needed.
Note: At this point you could move forward with serving. But, your broth will most likely be on the oily side. Instead, cover broth and refrigerate for 3 – 24 hours. This will allow the liquid and fat to separate. The fat will become solid. Skim it off and discard.

Cook rice noodles as directed. Bring broth to a boil. Place 1/8 of the noodles and 1/8 of the beef in a large bowl. Spoon in broth (roughly 2 cups.) Adorn as you like with mint, cilantro, basil, lime, chili peppers, bean sprouts, hoisin sauce, and sriacha.


About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.

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