Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Faux Pho Ga

I do love a good bowl of pho and there is no shortage of places to get it in Seattle. But sometimes you don’t want to have to leave the house for it. Enter Andrea Nguyen and her Instant Pot Chicken Pho recipe. Of course it is appealing to be able to use my beloved Instant Pot to make a flavorful broth. However, I know myself. While I love authentic pho, when it comes to making it at home, authenticity doesn’t work for me. I need to be able to make a big pot of soup one night and then just reheat it on subsequent nights. I know that if a recipe calls for me to have a bunch of extras to add each day I’m not going to make that recipe regularly.

So I wondered if I could make a pho-inspired soup, one that uses Nguyen’s gorgeous broth but fills it with vegetables cooked straight in the broth and used a grain instead of rice noodles that go gummy if you store them in the broth overnight. I was very dubious that this could possibly work, but I was determined to find a way to make pho a more realistic recipe for the dinner rotations.

I decided to use my usual soup vegetables: carrots, kale and in this case, cauliflower. I used my Breville Sous Chef food processor to slice carrots and cauliflower super thinly. The kale I chopped fine as I do for nearly every main course I make. To replace the rice noodles, I chose millet. The obvious choice would have been rice, of course, but we only use brown rice in our household and I feared that it would be too assertive. Millet is mild and satisfying and worked well.

The end result exceeded my wildest hopes. The children were instantly smitten, especially when they added a generous dollop of hoisin sauce to their bowls. My husband had hoisin and Sriracha, and I went for a squeeze of lime. These are the types of condiments I can handle on a nightly basis. And thus, faux pho was born. I am not claiming it’s as good as authentic pho. I’m only asserting that my family enjoyed it and it’s the kind of recipe I can easily repeat with things I always have on hand.

For the broth
1 4lb chicken (approx), giblets removed. We used a super high quality chicken from the farmers’ market. You could add the neck and gizzard to your broth but not the liver.
1 heaping TBSP coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 inch piece of ginger, sliced thickly and smashed a bit (I did not peel)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thickly (around 10 oz, mine was slightly under)
7 to 7 1/2 cups water, just off the boil
1 small apple, peeled (I did the first time but wouldn’t in future), cored and in medium chunks
3/4 c cilantro leaves and sprigs packed very tightly—you want to be generous with the cilantro
2 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (I used the same amount of kosher salt and seasoned more later)

For the soup:
Broth and chicken from the above
4-6 cups additional water
1 cup millet
3-5 carrots (depending on size) very thinly sliced
1/2 small head cauliflower very thinly sliced
1/2 bunch kale or other greens, finely chopped
1 1/2 TBSP fish sauce, or to taste (mine was a bit strong so I used less than I expected)
Soy sauce to taste (optional and not in the original recipe)
More cilantro (optional)


  1. Turn the Instant Pot to Sauté mode and press the More button to get a stronger heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick if using. Sauté for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant
  2. Add the ginger and onion and stir frequently for a couple of minutes until they too are fragrant
  3. Add four cups of the just-boiled water to stop the cooking, then add the chicken (breast side up), cilantro, apple, salt and remaining water. The chicken should be mostly covered
  4. Put on the Instant Pot lid and make sure the vent is set to Sealing. Use the Poultry mode at high pressure (here I differ from Nguyen who says 10 minutes at low pressure for a chicken that big, which makes me very nervous. Hip pressure cooking says 20-25 minutes for a chicken that big at high pressure. I did 20 this time but will try 15 next time. 10 might be enough, but not at low pressure) for 15 minutes
  5. When the cook time is done, unplug the Instant Pot or turn it off and let rest for at least 20 minutes. After that time the pressure had still not gone down in mine so I did a quick release but I think it would have been better to wait for it to drop on its own
  6. Nguyen wants you to remove the chicken and soak in cold water for 10 minutes because she’s going for a silky texture on the chicken. For regular pho this would be important, but in my soup this was an unnecessary step that was messy and tedious—I will omit next time. Instead, just remove the chicken to a bowl or cutting board and let it cool til you can handle it
  7. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth/muslin into a medium large pot and put on the stove at medium-high heat. The solids can be composted
  8. When the chicken is cool enough, cut or shred it into bite-sized pieces
  9. Add the additional 4-6 cups of water to the strong broth you made. I know this may be considered heresy but the broth was still plenty flavorful and a whole chicken makes a lot of soup
  10. When the broth is at a boil, add the millet, carrots and cauliflower and bring back to a simmer
  11. Simmer until the millet is cooked through, then add the chicken pieces and kale
  12. Taste and add fish sauce, salt, soy sauce and/or a bit of sugar to taste
  13. Serve with sriracha, hoisin sauce and limes as desired

Monday, January 8, 2018

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

It’s so interesting to look at how my cooking has evolved over the years, and as we’ve become a family of two then three then four. These days I am all about simplicity and leftovers. I still pride myself on making wholesome, delicious food, but I just don’t have the time for or interest in elaborate meal prep. Enter the recipe makeover. There are recipes the family has loved, but that have fallen out of favor because they’re just more labor intensive than I prefer. I’m finding ways of incorporating the elements we love while dramatically simplifying the prep.

Today’s case in point is the 2010 recipe for Bee-Bim Bop. So tasty and yet so fiddly to prepare all the bits separately. In addition, we really do not buy large cuts of meat often. I am much more apt to reach for high-quality ground beef, chicken or pork I can get at the farmers’ market, both because of the friendlier price tag for that high quality and better environmental report card, and because ground meat allows a little meat to go a long way. The Teriyaki Turkey and Ground Vegetables recipe (which I more often make with chicken since I can get that more easily at my market) calls for 1 pound of ground meat and feeds our family of four for three nights. The original bee-bim bop recipe calls for 1 pound of steak but it wouldn’t be satisfying to try to spread it over that many nights, but with ground beef instead and the same cooking method from the teriyaki turkey and ground vegetables it’s easy.

Soon I’m going to try an Indian version of the same concept with pork or chicken using the Indian-Spiced Simmer Sauce posted by 101 Cookbooks using some cashew cream to thin it out a bit. I have a feeling it will work super well and be a recipe I’m much more likely to turn to than Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala, great Instant Pot recipes for those notwithstanding.

Back to today’s recipe. I am taking the marinade from Bee-Bim Bop, stretching it out with some chicken stock and reducing the sugar quite a bit. After whisking that together, all I do is sauté some onion in oil, add ground beef, then stir in my ground veggies of choice, usually broccoli and/or cauliflower, carrots and sometimes peppers. Once the veg is steamed and tender, add the sauce and serve over rice. Sometimes I’ll cook up the omelette from the bee-bim bop recipe, chop and scatter that in, too. Cook once, eat three times and the family still has smiles at the repeats.

3/4 c. soy sauce, low sodium or regular ok
3/4 to 1 c. chicken stock (water might also work)
2-3 TBSP sugar
1/4 c. oil of choice
2 TBSP sesame oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 TBSP sesame seeds (optional)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Veggie & Meat Mixture
1-2 TBSP oil
1/2 to 1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
1-2 stalks broccoli, washed, peeled and cut into regular chunks
1/2 head cauliflower, cored, washed and cut into regular chunks
3-4 carrots, washed and cut into regular chunks
2-3 eggs made into an omelette with a dash of sesame oil and then rolled and sliced into strips (optional)


  1. Whisk together marinade ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium-high then add the onion and sauté until soft
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute then add the ground beef. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the beef is cooked
  4. While the beef is cooking, put the first vegetable in the food processor and chop finely, then add to skillet when beef is cooked
  5. Repeat with remaining vegetables, stirring well after each addition
  6. Place a lid on the skillet and let the veggies steam for 5 minutes or so
  7. Remove lid, verify that vegetables are tender, and then add 2/3 to 3/4 of the sauce, stirring well
  8. Let the mixture cook for a minute or two to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning. You may need a bit more soy sauce or some salt or sesame oil
  9. Serve over rice or the grain of your choice, passing the extra sauce