Recession-Proof Recipes: Pho Bo Fast

Last week’s Recession-Proof Recipe focused on the tasty, nutritious and protein-rich bean . This week we’ll explore the legendary kitchen economy (and big flavor win!) provided by a homemade soup stock.

I’ve mentioned the ease and wonder of homemade stock on a couple of occasions previously, so I was simply tickled when I happened to read a piece this week by MFK Fisher (found in With Bold Knife & Fork) on the joys of simple soups made of simple stocks.

I’m thus inspired to share a snippet of her insight taken from Especially of the Evening.

“There is excitement and real satisfaction in making an artful good soup from things usually tossed away: the washed tops of celery stalks, stems of parsley, skeletons of fowl, bones of animals… at home I do not hesitate, if a fine T-bone lies fairly naked on the platter, to make a stock from it, remove any fat when it is chilled, and use it within a few days for a soup base or a sauce.”

Fisher goes on to write fondly of many soups, including a hearty egg-fortified broth she was served in the alps, a restorative beef broth she was given while convalescing as a child, and the lovely hot leek-potato soup that’s served cold under the guise of Vichyssoise.

But I was most pleased to read an utterly simple, comforting recipe she includes for using up some of that economical stock:

MFK Fisher’s “Life Saver”
1 part good stock
1 part tomato juice or V8
1 part clam juice

Mix, heat to simmer point and serve, seasoning and garnishing as wished. Good alone or with a sandwich for lunch.

This can be varied for grown-ups, and indeed made quite sophisticated, by substituting for the tomato juice one part dry white wine added at the last…

Simple. Frugal. Brilliant.

Because truly, what is pho or ramen or chicken noodle soup, after all, but wonderful stock to which we add yet more tasty things?

Part of the magic of pho (pronounced fuh ) is that the soup arrives au naturel . Just a clean, fragrant, steaming broth with a pile of noodles (and maybe a few vegetables or meats) in it. Each diner garnishes his or her own soup to his or her own heart’s delight… or not at all.

That said, the beef broth must be made with love. All success in this dish depends on the beauty of the broth.

Pho Bo Fast (Serves 2)

For the Broth
4 cups beef broth
1-inch piece ginger, sliced
2 whole star anise
2 whole cloves
6 oz flat rice noodles
2 Tbsp Asian-style fish sauce
1/2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste (optional)

For the Garnish Platter*
Lime wedges
Bean sprouts, rinsed
Fresh basil sprigs, (preferably Asian basil)
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Sliced scallions
Thin-sliced strips of leftover steak
Serrano chili, sliced thin
Hoisin sauce

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring the beef broth to a boil with the ginger, cloves and star anise. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cover the rice noodles in hot water and soak about 15 minutes, or until softened. Meanwhile, arrange the garnish platter.
  3. Strain out the star anise, cloves and ginger, and add the fish sauce and hot sauce to taste.
  4. Divide noodles into two bowls and ladle hot broth over the noodles. Serve soup alongside garnish platter. Dress your soup as you see fit with torn basil, cilantro leaves, a squeeze of citrus, a few chilis, a little steak…
    *I consider the first three garnishes to be essentials and the others, nice options.

And Here are a few other soup recipes to try:
* Rotisserie Chicken Stock & Soup
* Moroccan Stew
* Chilled Yogurt-Spinach Soup
* Cream of Celery Root Soup

Bon appétit!

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