Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak


Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak
This is a recipe adapted from Vietnamese chef Andrea Nguyen. I have always loved authentic pho, but have never attempted to make it because of the time and hassle in creating a proper soup stock from boiled beef bones. For this recipe, I improvised and added a bit of bacon fat to try to recreate that savory, slow-cooked flavor. It’s not perfect, but very close and a huge time-saver served as a weeknight meal.

A note on the fish sauce – some people love it, but you have to be pretty ballsy to throw a quarter-cup of the stuff in your soup pot, as called for in Andrea’s recipe. Knowing how intense the flavor is, I backed off to only three tablespoons and found it still borderline overpowering. I have edited my recipe to include only two tablespoons. Try it — you can always add more; it’s an authentic and necessary component of this dish.

My special Asian-marinated sliced flank steak takes center stage. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:

32 oz. beef stock
3 cups hot water
2 tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. rendered bacon fat
1″ chunk ginger root, peeled, charred and cut into discs
1 large, whole shallot, peeled and sectioned, charred, then cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tbs. whole dry coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
6 whole dry cloves
2 tsp. powdered beef base
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
3 large green scallion, trimmed and cut at a bias into 1″ planks
2 fresh green chilis; Thai or semi-hot, seeded and sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 handfuls fresh Thai queen basil
Lime wedges for garnish
1 brick Three Sisters Vietnamese vermicelli noodles (enough for two or three large, single portions. There are 6 bricks in a two-pound package.)

For the Grilled Steak~
1/2 lb. Black Angus flank steak, tenderized with a needle press
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed through a press
2 heaping tbs. Laoganma Black Bean Chili Sauce
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, to taste


DIRECTIONS:

About 12 hours prior to cooking, marinate the flank steak. Hit it generously with a needle tenderizer on both sides. Place in a zip-lock bag with 2 heaping tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce, 2 tbs. lime juice and 4 large cloves garlic, crushed in a press. Season with a bit of Kosher salt, seal tightly and ensure all surfaces of the meat are covered. Refrigerate, rotating ocassionally.

Charring the shallot and ginger: Place in a heavy cast-iron pot or fry pan (not enameled) and evenly char with a propane torch. Remove and set the shallot and ginger aside to cool. Then slice.

Preparing the soup stock: Set a heavy, cast-iron or enameled iron pot over medium-low heat and add the coriander seed. Stir until it just starts to toast, then add the bacon fat, sliced shallot and ginger. Continue stirring until slightly browned. Add the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and beef stock. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Add the hot water, fish sauce, beef base and brown sugar. Cook at a rolling simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and carefully strain out the solids in a colander. Discard the solids and return the stock back to the pot.

Preparing the flank steak: Time an outdoor charcoal fire so the steak will be done with the stock. Level the coals and place the steak over direct heat and sear about three minutes per side, until charred but medium rare. Remove and let rest for five minutes. Cut into 1/4″ strips at a bias, across the grain so it remains tender. Reserve covered.

Prepare the rice vermicelli according to package directions, boiling for about 7-8 minutes. Drain off the water and divide the noodles between bowls. The noodles should also be timed so they are done when the stock is done.

Pour a generous amount of stock over each bowl of noodles and top with the seared flank steak, green onion, Thai basil, green chili and cilantro. Squeeze in a bit of lime juice and serve immediately with hot chili garlic sauce, Sriracha and soy sauce on the side.

Serves 2-3. Chopsticks and Asian soup spoons are a must with this recipe.

NOTE: If the steak is a bit undercooked and bloody when slicing, do not worry. Adding the hot stock over the top will cook it through in less than a minute.

Fresh garden Thai queen basil and chilis.

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Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic Sauce


Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic SauceThis is a recipe loosely based on one by Fuchsia Dunlop, from her book Every Grain of Rice. The sauce represented here is intensely dark, rich and fragrant; elevated by the Laoganma black bean chili oil.  Look for it in large Asian markets – it is an amazing product. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 oz. ground pork with a decent amount of fat
1” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1” planks
handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 large red onion, cut in wedges
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1 large scallion, trimmed and cut in 2” sections at a bias

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 heaping tbs. Laoganma® Chili Oil with Black Bean
1/2 tsp. Lee Kum Kee® Black Bean Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. Gold Plum® Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns*, toasted in a mortar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1 cup Thai Jasmine rice
2 tbs. canola oil, divided

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut, measure and prepare all ingredients so you have them ready, and at hand.
Prepare the sauce by adding everything except the Laoganma chili oil and sesame oil to a small mixing bowl. Mix well.

Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and swirl the wok to coat. Add the ground pork and stir-fry with a long-handled Chinese spatula until no longer pink and the surface starts to brown. Drain and set the pork aside. Discard the fat from the wok.

Add the remaining canola oil to the wok and stir to coat. Add the Laoganma chili oil, the ginger and garlic. Quickly stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, carrot and snow peas. Stir-fry until crisp-tender and the surfaces start to char. Add the sauce mixture and stir, scraping to deglaze the wok. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the pork back to the wok.

Add the chopped scallion and stir for about a minute until it is just wilted. Add the sesame oil. Remove the wok from the heat and serve with jasmine rice.

To prepare the rice:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2.5 quart heavy stock pot. Add the jasmine rice and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced and the surface starts to show pock marks. Cover and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff and serve. Time the rice so it is done when you are done with the stir-fry.

Serves 2.

*A note on the Szechuan peppercorns: These may be hard to find, but they add such a unique flavor to this dish. They are not true peppercorns, but actually the seed pods from the Asian prickly ash shrub. Toast one level teaspoon in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat until they just start to smell fragrant. Shake them occasionally so they don’t scorch. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a mortar. Lightly grind by hand until the pods are crushed. Discard the hard black seeds, as they are very gritty. Run through a fine mesh screen and discard the larger pieces. Keep the fine powder in a small airtight spice jar stored in your fridge. It will last about a week before the flavor starts to fade. These peppercorns produce a numbing sensation on your tongue, which is caused by the active compound hydroxy alpha sanshool. The spice is widely used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Northern India.

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)


Pad Kee Mao | Drunken Noodles | Culinary Compost RecipesThis is my rendition of a classic dish served at Plia’s Kitchen, a Hmong restaurant in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They serve wonderful South Asian cuisine. The widely-reputed silver bullet for curing a hangover, or just a late-night snack after an all-day bender, this mind-numbingly spicy recipe is a much-loved Chinese-inspired favorite in Thailand.

My wife cannot tolerate anything remotely hot, which is a real shame. To compensate, I improvised this recipe by adding only a seeded jalapeño pepper. For the authentic version, you should use fresh hot Thai red chilis, crushed in a mortar. Thai holy basil is impossible to find in my area – if you are lucky enough to source or grow some, by all means use it — it has an unmistakable peppery, complex flavor that is all but absent in Thai sweet or lemon basil.  Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 large chicken breast
1 tbs. cornstarch
2 tbs. water
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

—-

4 tbs. canola oil, divided
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a mortar
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
4-5 fresh red Thai chilis, stemmed, cut in pieces and crushed in a mortar
OR – one seeded, sliced jalapeño
1 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1” square sections
1.5 cups fresh Thai holy basil leaves
2 large scallions, trimmed and cut at a bias in 2” sections, with greens
4 oz. rice flake noodles (1/2 8 oz. bag), soaked for one hour and then boiled for two minutes

—-

1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tbs. oyster sauce
1 tbs. fish sauce
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. Tamari soy sauce
1 tsp. Gold Plum® brand Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the chicken into small pieces (1/2” to 1”).
In a medium-sized work bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, white pepper and dark soy sauce. Add the chicken and coat well. Set aside for one hour on your counter until it warms to room temperature.

Prepare the rice flake noodles by soaking them in warm water for one hour. Drain, then add to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Time them so they are ready to add to the wok after draining.

Prep the vegetables so you have them at hand. Combine the Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, dark and Tamari soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, brown sugar and chicken stock in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat and add 2 tbs. canola oil, swirling to coat. The oil should start to smoke. Add the cut chicken pieces and stir with a long-handled Chinese metal spatula. Cook until seared on all sides, about three minutes. Quickly remove from the wok and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining canola oil and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the wok. Add the crushed garlic, ginger and chilis or jalapeno, and the Laoganma black bean chili sauce.  Stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add the minced shallot and continue to stir for another one to two minutes. Add the bell pepper. Stir to sear the vegetables, and then add the sauce ingredients and the reserved chicken. Stir to coat. Drain and add the boiled rice flake noodles, the fresh basil and scallion. Stir well to coat the noodles and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Savory Bean and Ham Soup, with Spinach


Not sure what to do with that wonderful leftover holiday ham? Try this recipe. It’s been a family favorite for many years. Go easy on the salt and watch the beans very carefully so they don’t turn to mush. If you’re not sure how many guests you will be serving, or are planning leftovers, *reserve the spinach and add it to each bowl as needed. This will ensure freshness and a vibrant, colorful presentation. Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:

2 14.5 oz. cans Great Northern beans, rinsed
1 49.5 oz. can chicken broth
3 or 4 cups diced ham (cut in 1/4″ cubes)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery with greens, diced
4 generous handfuls Farfalle (bowtie) pasta
4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. dry thyme, crushed in a mortar
1 tbs. dry parsley flakes
1 large dry bay leaf
3 tbs. XV olive oil
2 tbs. salted butter
2 tbs. flour
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

 

PREPARATION:

Preheat a 5-quart soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the diced onion, celery, garlic, olive oil and butter. Sauté carefully for about ten minutes until the vegetables have softened. Do not allow them to scorch. Add the flour. Stir constantly for another five minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.

Next, add the diced ham and dry spices. Stir and simmer partially covered over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Add the pasta and beans and cook the pasta until just al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Shut off the heat and *add the spinach before serving.

Makes about 3 quarts
Serves 4-6

Creamy Sauerkraut, Potato and Kielbasa Soup


Creamy Sauerkraut, Potato and Kielbasa Soup | Culinary Compost RecipesThis hearty Polish/Ukrainian soup is sooooo damn good. The bacon, Gouda cheese and kielbasa sausage add a wonderful, mellow depth of flavor that complements the briny bite of the kraut. The one thing I’ve found in my years of cooking is that people either love or detest sauerkraut — there is no middle ground. And for those that hate it, I say y’all are crazy. This recipe is perfect for game day or a cold winter afternoon. You can freeze any leftovers; it keeps wonderfully, and it’s better after a day’s rest in the fridge. Enjoy—

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
4 tbs. (1/2 stick) salted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
1 Hillshire Farms® Polska Kielbasa, cubed in 1/2″ chunks
3 large diced red potatoes (scrub clean and leave the skins on)
1 14.5oz. can Frank’s® sauerkraut
1 cup diced Gouda cheese (cube in 1/4″ chunks)
2 tsp. dry parsley
1 dry bay leaf
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. caraway seed, ground in a mortar
Generous amount of fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Dollop of fresh sour cream for garnish

Optional: Bread bowls for serving

Do not add salt until you taste it first.

 

PREPARATION:

Fry the bacon in a heavy skillet until most of the fat has rendered out, but do not let it get crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.

In a 3-quart heavy soup pot, add the butter and flour and cook over medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes to form a roux. Stir constantly with a spatula so it doesn’t scorch. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Next, increase the heat to medium and add the cubed kielbasa. Saute for ten minutes. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Add the rendered bacon and dry spices. Stir occasionally. Add the diced potatoes and the kraut. Cook for 1 hour, partially covered, over a very low simmer until the potatoes are tender. During the last 30 minutes, add the Gouda cheese and cook until melted and creamy, stirring often.

Correct the seasoning and add salt if you need to, but keep in mind that the kraut, cheese and sausage are loaded with it.

Serve in bread bowls or heavy crockware soup bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a nice spinach salad.

Serves 4-6
Yields about 2.5 quarts

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad


Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe based on a product that I [should not have] discovered at the deli counter in our local Pick’n Save grocery store. After trying a sample and gleefully purchasing a one-pound container, I hauled-ass home and proceeded to eat most of it in one sitting — and then spent the remainder of the day in a self-induced food coma watching M.A.S.H. reruns on TV Land.

Yeah, it’s that good.

This recipe took three tries to get right. The time spent reverse-engineering it was definitely worth the hassle. Share with friends at your next outdoor BBQ. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds baby red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese  – don’t skimp on quality here, folks
5 strips bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled
3/4 cup mayo* (please, do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup sour cream
Up to 1/4 cup peppercorn-ranch dressing, to taste*
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
3 stalks scallion, finely sliced, including the greens
1/2 garden red bell pepper, finely chopped

 

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and scrub the baby red potatoes and set aside. Leave the skins on. Bring four quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. Add one teaspoon salt. Cook the potatoes for about 14-15 minutes, until fork-tender. Rinse with cold water and cut into eighths. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Add the cooked potatoes and gently fold together until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving so the flavors have time to set up. It’s best if left to sit overnight.

*You may compensate if the dressing is a bit dry by adding more mayo or peppercorn ranch.

Serves 4-6

Garden Red Bell Pepper | Culinary Compost Recipes

2017 garden bell pepper – I’ve had the best luck growing these in five-gallon buckets placed on my back patio.

Browning Bacon in a Cast-Iron Skillet | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mmmmm….. BACON.

 

Asian Candied Almonds


Asian Candied Almonds | Culinary Compost Recipes

 

After experimenting with a glaze that was actually meant for chicken wings, I decided to also make candied almonds with it. This recipe is Asian inspired; the deep, complex flavor comes from just a bit of Sriracha and soy sauce with sesame oil. Let the glazed almonds set up in the fridge before adding the remaining brown sugar so it will adhere better.

Enjoy! I guarantee you’ll be eating more than one handful.

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Blue Diamond® whole natural almonds
1/4 stick salted butter, melted
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbs. sriracha sauce
1 tbs. honey
1 tsp. garlic powder (not salt!)
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke seasoning
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 tbs. brown sugar for the glaze coating

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 300° F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, melt the butter for 20 seconds in your microwave. Add the remaining ingredients except for the almonds. Beat with a spatula for two minutes until thoroughly combined. Add the almonds and mix well.

Line a large cookie sheet with baker’s parchment paper and fold the edges up to form a lip on all four sides. Spread out the almond glaze mixture on the paper.

Bake uncovered for 12-14 minutes. There is no need to turn them. Remove and let cool slightly on your stovetop.

Spoon the mixture into a colander and let the excess glaze run off. Transfer to a covered bowl and place in your fridge for 1/2 hour to set up.

After a half hour, sprinkle 4 tbs. brown sugar over the top and fold in with a spatula until all of the nuts are evenly coated.

Serves 6

NOTE: If you bake the almonds any longer than the time indicated, you risk scorching the butter. Watch them carefully when baking.