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Monday, February 28, 2011

Southern Belle Lamb Pho

And here we go, with a southern girl from Georgia making up something she has no business making-- Vietnamese food.

But the thing is, my daughter and I LOVELOVELOVE Pho.  And my husband won't eat beef, which really restricts us from going out as a family for it.  So I created a lamb version at home.. and lo and behold, the hubby and the boy both adore it too.  My daughter turned 8 last Wednesday, and is having a friend over tonight, so she asked me to make it for their special dinner. Hope the friend is up for trying something new.

Pho, for the uninitiated, is a fantastic broth and noodle soup, typically made with beef and served with assorted herbs and condiments so that you get to make your own flavor. My daughter calls it "decorating" the soup.

So after quite a bit of research online, and looking at twenty or so recipes, here is mine:

What You Need:
a large soup pot or dutch oven
1-2 onions
1 piece ginger about 3 inches long
1 tsp. whole coriander
1 tsp. fennel seed
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
4-5 green cardomon pods
a lot of water
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. minced garlic
about 6 chunks lamb stew meat
2 lb. lamb that you can slice VERY thinly or lamb shabu shabu
1 pkg. rice noodles
fresh cilantro
fresh basil
bean sprouts
2 limes
2 fresh jalapeños
Chinese hot sauce
Hoison sauce (we have also subbed A1 in a pinch)
Soy sauce

Plan to be home all day.  This is NOT a 30 minute meal.

Early in the day, heat your large pot on the stove. Peel your onion(s) and throw in the bottom to char.  Thickly slice the ginger and throw it in too.  You will need to stir pretty constantly. You want to get the flavor in the pan but not burn the heck out of it.  Once they are nicely seared, remove.  Throw the lamb stew chunks in the pan and brown.  Once they are browned a bit (it doesn't have to be all sides), add the ginger and onion back in and fill the pan almost to the top with water.  Bring the mixture to medium heat and let simmer for 4-6 hours.

Go do something else.  Laundry, propping your feet up, or taking a nap are my suggestions.

Go check on the pot. Some people skim it at this point. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't depending on how the top of it looks.  This next step, you can either put the spices in a mesh bag (like making a big 'ol pot of tea) or you can throw them in there.  I do a mix between the two-- I use a tea ball each for the coriander and fennel because they are smaller, and then throw in the cinnamon, star anise, garlic, cardomon, and cloves.  Let the soup continue to simmer.  Toss in a little salt if you are into that sort of thing. Let it simmer at least another hour or two.  Then taste it, you should have a rich, flavorful lamb broth.

Once the broth is good enough for your taste, you can do one of three things-- leave it alone, strain it, or fish out the things you don't want to eat. I typically strain it into another pan and throw the onions back in.  In a separate pan, bring water to boil for your noodles. I like to boil them separately because otherwise, the noodles soak up all of your broth and you are left with something more like a casserole than a soup.  Keep your broth warm on the stove.

Go ahead and set out your sauces, and slice your limes and jalapeños.  On a large plate or platter, arrange the cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, limes, and jalapeños.

Cook your noodles and strain.  Now, take your thinly sliced lamb and toss in the broth.  If it is sliced thinly enough, you can even skip this step and throw it in your bowl (the traditional way) but that freaks my family out as it winds up medium rare (I love it that way.)
(shown here: lamb shabu shabu)

To serve, take a bowl and put a heap of noodles in the bottom.

Top with broth, and then "decorate" with the condiments of your choice.

If you are gluten free.. you should be good to go with this one as long as you use gluten free soy and hoison sauces.

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