This past weekend had me in the kitchen a few times, and not just for trying to perfect my soup. On Sunday, Denise came over for dinner and we actually made something instead of eating out. On the menu: BBQ pulled pork with coleslaw and yam fries.
I got up early and took a lot of the fat off of a cheap pork roast before popping it into the slow cooker. I sprinkled it with dried chopped onions and some dried sliced garlic. I put enough water in the crock pot to go about half way up the roast, then mixed in half a bottle of Bullseye Old West Hickory BBQ sauce. Low for 8 hours, drain, shred with a fork, add the other half bottle of bbq sauce, stir and low for another 2 hours. The next time I do this, I won’t let it go for the full two hours at the end. I might cut it back to just an hour. The flavor was nice and it was still moist, but the blackened bbq sauce was a bear to clean off the crock pot.
Denise threw together a coleslaw from a recipe we found online. We cut back on the sugar suggested because we’re already sweet enough. It paired nicely with the pulled pork on the cheese buns. That’s something else I’ll switch up for next time. No cheese buns. Yes, they’re nice and tasty, but when you added the hot pulled pork to them the oils from the cheese started flowing and things got a bit greasy. Maybe a nice kaiser roll or an onion bun.
There was a little bit of a debate over whether or not we should break out the deep fryer for the yam fries or just do them in the oven. Considering the rest of the meal, we just popped them in the oven (regular store bought McCain’s). I wanted to try recreating the dip that usually comes with the yam fries in the restaurant, but didn’t want anything too spicy so that Denise could still eat it. In the end, I came up with three quick mayo-based dips and bought some roasted garlic mayo for a fourth. The three that I did: Garlic Lime, Sweet Chilli, and Hickory BBQ. They all came together really quickly and all tasted pretty darn good.
The crazy thing is that we didn’t take any pictures of our meal. Very strange. We’re always taking pictures of that stuff… don’t know what happened there. I decided to have a half sandwich about 6 hours later and took a picture of that. I didn’t have any of the original coleslaw left, so I whipped up some bbq hickory mayo and used that. For something that I threw together at the last minute, it sure worked. Even though this looks like a full sandwich, it’s not. It’s just the back half of a cut bun.
Soup for Break-pho-est
I was originally going to make us some of my faux pho for lunch on Sunday, but we ended up going out to a new place to try theirs instead (new to us anyway). I had taken out a bunch of meat from the freezer in preparation for this though, so I had to use it up. I woke up Monday morning with a hankering for a big bowl of soup so, after I let the dog out, I put on my apron and got to work in the kitchen.
I bought some Knorr beef stock packets awhile ago and wanted to give them a try. They’re like little beef jello shots. I measured out a bowl full of water for the pot and tossed one in. For the distinctive pho spice flavor, I decided to add a rounded teaspoon of the instant pho soup base. The resulting broth was awesome. Easily one of the best I’ve made yet. I want to try it again without the instant pho base though because it added a reddish oil to the mix. I think I’ll either make up a bouquet garni of star anise, cinnamon sticks and ginger or use one of those pho flavoring “tea bags” I used last time.
For meat, I had 8 beef balls that I cut in half and some steak strips. I added those to the broth as it was simmering on the stove to try to impart a little more beefiness. I reserved some of the steak to add later to keep it rare. I was worried that the steak would get too chewy by boiling away in the broth, but it worked out nicely. A little chew, but still quite tender. A nice addition to the overall texture.
I pre-soaked the noodles again, letting them sit in a pot of hot water while I prepped all the veggies. I drained and rinsed them a couple of times during this process, trying to release some of the starch. I won’t ever cook the noodles directly in the broth again. This is definitely a required step. I’m making soup, not stew. I didn’t end up using all of the noodles this time. I tried to put in the amount that usually comes in a large bowl of pho instead of EAT ALL THE NOODLES!!!! These were also the last of my slightly wider cut noodles. I’ll be going back to the slimmer ones from now on. They’re closer to what the restaurants use and that’s the whole point of this.
The finished product was awesome. The broth was a nice clear brown with plenty of beefy flavor and a nice hint of something else special. It had the right amount of noodles, lots of extra meat (Yay!), and kept me interested right down to the end when my spoon was scraping the bottom of the bowl. Instead of the two green onions I normally put in there, I only used one. I also doubled the amount of cilantro I usually put in (about 6 sprigs). I really need to get some real lime to add to my soup instead of the squirt of lime juice from the RealLime ™ bottle. If I stop experimenting at this point, I’m ok with that. This soup was on par with several restaurants and better than about half of the places I’ve eaten at. I’m not going to stop though. I won’t be happy until I can knock out a quick pho that can compete with any of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants.