We had the option of preparing Jaden's quick version of Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Pho, using store-bought stock or, for us who were particularly daring, the longer version of Chicken or Beef Pho from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen. The full recipes and instructions for Jaden's Chicken Pho can be found here, and her Beef Pho, here.
I chose to be particularly daring and prepared the longer version of Vietnamese Beef Pho, using Buffalo filet mignon.
As an added incentive this month, Jaden and The Daring Kitchen teamed up to host a photography contest for the Best Looking Pho Photo, and the Best Creative Wonton Dessert. Winners will receive a copy of Jaden's cookbook.
I had a hard time deciding between the photo above, and the one below. I went with the one below (apparently, it wasn't a good choice. Tastespotting and Foodgawker both rejected it based on "unflattering composition" and "narrow depth of field").
Before I get to my Pho preparation photos, I have a confession. Before reading about this Challenge, I was a Pho-gin. Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to dine at a local Vietnamese restaurant and engage in a little Pho-Play. The OB Noodle House & Sake Bar, in Ocean Beach, had good reviews and an extensive offering of 19 variations of Pho.
I'm not quite sure how to describe this place, or some of the people who were dining there that evening. Let's just say it wasn't my scene. However, it was a new dining experience with interesting people-watching, and I left with a better understanding of this month's Challenge recipe. OB Noodle House's Rare Beef Pho was good, but probably scarred my first experience by the over-abundance of cilantro...not one of my favorite herbs.
I was much happier with Jaden's recipe, served with all the condiments on the side so you can use what you like. For my Rare Buffalo Pho, I offered Thai basil, cilantro, sliced fresh chili peppers, bean sprouts, red onion, mushrooms, lime wedges, Sriracha chili sauce, and Hoisin sauce.
The homemade beef stock absorbs its rich flavor from charred /roasted onions and ginger, spices, beef bones, fish stock, sugar, salt, and water.
Charred/Roasted onions and ginger
I toasted the spices (cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pods, and whole cloves) and made a little mesh bag out of cheesecloth.
I used some nice beef bones, which Dooley and Diver thoroughly enjoyed after I removed them from the stock.
The stock takes about three hours, including a brief parboil of the bones to boil off some of the fat and scum
After parboiling the bones, and then rinsing off the bones and the pan, you boil a fresh pot of water and return the bones and the remaining ingredients to the water.
In order to achieve a clear broth, you must periodically skim the scum and strain the stock at the end. This photo won't be winning any beauty contests, but that scum's gotta go. I strained the broth through a napkin and fine sieve.
I went an extra step and refrigerated the stock overnight. I then strained it a second time and brought it back to a boil just before I was ready to serve.
Here is my beauteous buffalo filet. If you freeze the filet for about 15 minutes, it's much easier to slice thinly, across the grain.
It's important to have your condiment platter prepared, and your filet sliced, before cooking the rice noodles. For serving, place some cooked noodles in serving bowls, cover with hot broth, and add the sliced filet. The broth will cook the raw filet in a few minutes and you can then add your desired accompaniments.
I was very pleased with my first Pho attempt, and it most certainly wrapped noodles around the OB Noodle House Pho! Thank you, Jaden, for expanding my culinary horizons!
Now, are you ready for dessert? The second part of the Daring Cooks' Challenge was to create our own version of dessert wontons. The challenge was about being creative with filling and form, and then photographing the result for the photo contest.
I used the ricotta filling from Mario Batali's Cannoli de Ricotta and BABBO's White Wine-Poached Pears.
I formed cone-shaped wontons by brushing wonton wrappers with butter on both sides and then wrapping them around paper cones made with stock paper and stapled.
I baked the wonton cones at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned, and slipped them off the paper cones. Just before serving, I filled a pastry bag with the ricotta filling and piped it into the cone. I topped the ricotta with a few spoonfuls of chopped, wine-poached pears and piped a little star of ricotta on the top. Originally, I envisioned a few pear slices, fanned out, emerging from my Lily-shaped wontons, but the pears weren't firm enough to cooperate. However, my bouquet looked elegant arranged in a martini glass.
I played with a few more ways to present these for serving....in shot glasses
And drizzled with some of the reduced wine syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon
If you like cannoli, I do strongly recommend Mario Batali's Cannoli de Ricotta, which I made a while back, here.
That concludes my October Daring Cooks' Challenge creations!
Be sure to visit Jaden at Steamy Kitchen and try one of her versions for Vietnamese Pho, or some of her other fabulous recipes. If you would like to participate in the voting for the most beautiful Pho photo and most creative Dessert Wonton, cast your vote on Steamy Kitchen from November 15 to November 21.
Finally, please stop by the Daring Kitchen, and the Daring Cooks' blogroll, to peruse the fabulous array of Pho and Wontons from all of the Daring Cooks' kitchens!
Now, I must get back to our Wizard of Oz gingerbread creation!