Are you freezing? I’m freezing. And it’s about damn time.
Don’t get me wrong: I was not exactly thrilled to see those 60-degree temperatures disappear this week (although, it seems like they’ll be back again? What is happening?!). But I DO love the seasons. As in, all four of them. I’m a big fan of curling up under a huge blanket, a dog on each side of me, a glass of wine in reach, something awesome on TV, and a hot bowl of comfort in my lap. It has felt almost wrong to do this sort of thing lately given the super mild temperatures, but at least winter is here…finally. Words I never thought I’d say.
Truth is, one of the biggest reasons I look forward to winter is the all-around coziness factor outlined above AND…all my TV shows are in full force. I know, I know. Doesn’t really sound like an important thing in the greater scheme of life. BUT! Settling in for a marathon viewing of the most recent season of “The Affair” is definitely happening this week, complete with sweats and a honkin’ bowl of this pho. I saved up all the episodes for something like this (and avoided any social media mention of it like the plague). A cold snap requiring multiple layers and dogs on my feet. Yes. Worthy of my TV marathon. And definitely worthy of this pho.
Pho is one of the best versions of noodly soup out there. Last year, I made a “quick and dirty” beef version that still remains one of the most popular recipes on the blog (with good reason!). Pho is a fun twist on soup and comes with a variety of toppings, which are all customizable by person. I love that. Not to mention all the spiced yumminess coming from the flavor bomb that is the broth. Lordy, is it good. Even if you go the short cut route, you won’t be disappointed!
In that beef version, I took a few short cuts and infused store-bought stock with my own flavor-amping ingredients. This time, however, I went all out and made the pho traditionally by making the stock myself. And I’ve never been so shocked at how easy something really is. This was my first (yes, really!) time making homemade stock. It seems to be a culinary right of passage or something and I had, somehow, avoided the task. My chef sister was always appalled when I brought out the box of stock from my pantry. Not because the flavor of boxed stock is bad, but making your own really is super easy and much more affordable! (As a general disclaimer: I’ll probably still use boxed stock most of the time because…well, I have a one year old. Yeah.)
So, I figured making authentic pho was the perfect starting point for me. Yes, it took several hours to get the broth in working form, but the actual process itself was not complicated at all. Much easier than I thought. And the smells coming from the kitchen made us look forward to dinner all day long.
The one aspect of this soup that I kind of switched up was the noodles. Traditionally, of course, rice noodles are served in pho. I wanted to lighten things up a bit, given that it’s only the second week of January and we’re all still in full-blown healthy mode, and so I pulled out my spiralizer (I use this one) and went to town on some zucchini. I blanched the noodles lightly and then served them in the soup just like I would have with rice noodles. I even made my husband’s with rice noodles. You can do one or the other, or even a combo of the two. I can guarantee that no matter your choice, the result will still be outstanding. And freaking delicious.
I may be a tad late to the veggie noodle bandwagon, but let me tell ya, I’ve bought my no-refund pass and am looking forward to many more trips in the future. Me = SOLD.
Now, normally, I try to space out similar recipes. Last time, I shared an incredible lentil soup recipe, complete with poached eggs. Today, I’m sharing another (mostly) healthy soup recipe with soft-boiled eggs. I stand behind this decision. I could not WAIT to tell you guys about this pho in all its spiced, warming, cozy, and slurpy glory. I just made it this past weekend, and the post I had originally scheduled to share with you guys today was pushed aside.
I’m OK with it. I think you guys will be too.
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
A 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 cinnamon sticks
6 star anise
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
8 cups water
1 (5-lb) whole chicken, quartered
¼ to ½ cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Cooked zucchini noodles (or rice noodles)
The cooked chicken
Lightly chopped baby spinach
Thinly sliced jalapeño peppers
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the onions, ginger, and garlic on the prepared sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until softened and caramelized in spots.
Add a drizzle of canola oil to a large stock pot and heat over medium. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and ground cardamom. Stirring constantly, heat up the spices until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add the roasted onion mixture and the water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then add in the quartered chicken. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Carefully remove the cooked chicken from the broth and place on a plate. After allowing it to cool slightly, remove the meat from the bones, shred or chop, and set aside.
Return the chicken bones and skin to the pot and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Strain the broth into a second pot, discarding the roasted vegetables, spices, and chicken parts. Stir in the brown sugar and fish sauce and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the finely chopped herbs and keep the pot of stock warm over low heat until you are ready to serve.
To each bowl, add some cooked zucchini/rice noodles and the cooked, shredded chicken. Pour the warm broth over top and garnish each bowl with the soft-boiled eggs and other desired add-ins.
A handful of baby spinach, more herbs, some scallions, a slice or two of jalapeño, bean sprouts, and LOTS of lime juice spritzed over the top.
This is how I make my zucchini noodles.
This is how I make my soft-boiled eggs.
Pho adapted from here.