Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' October Challenge: Vietnamese Phở bò tái

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

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.  Jaden will chose her eight favorite photos and post them to her blog on November 15th. Daring Kitchen members and Jaden’s blog readers will then vote for the winners. Voting will commence on November 15 and will end at midnight (EST) on November 21st. Winners will be announced on Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen blog on November 26th.  Unfortunately, Jaden's book tour was extended and she decided to "forego" allowing her readers to vote for the winning Pho and Wonton and chose them herself.  It's a bit disappointing when the rules are changed after the fact.

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 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!


Jenn said...

Beautiful! And OMG your dessert looks fan-freaking-tastic! Loving the presentation!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and appetizing. And the dessert presentation is incredible.

Olga said...

How cute that you did your research!
I'm impressed with your longer version and that beef looks amazing! Great photos too.

Woman with a Whisk said...

Wonton cones!!! SUCH a cool idea for presentation. And come on, buffalo filet -- does it get any better?!

Kai said...

You got to go somewhere on Linda Vista Rd. for good Pho. (I always find the tripe and fatty tendon to be the best part.) Beautiful arrangement, whish I could have tasted it.

Moonberryjuice said...

What a smart thin to do to go and have Pho in a restaurant before you made it yourself! I never had Pho before and therefor dont know if my version of Pho is even close to what its supposed to be.

And those wontons? Stunning!

pigpigscorner said...

Beautiful plating. the wonton cones are so cute!

Rose said...

Perfect! Absolutely beautiful. Your wontons, your pho,...everything! I am crazy about buffalo right now. I think we're doing buffalo burgers tomorrow night :D I will have to try the pho with it! Your pups were certainly lucky to get those bones :D

Minh said...

The wontons look beautiful, I love your presentation! Those mushrooms in the pho make it look so whimsical

Heather B said...

Every time I see the beef pho, I want it more and more! Great job on both challenges this month. They look delicious!

Anonymous said...

Love the addition of buffalo. As for the dessert I kept thinking to myself "leave the gun, grab the cannolis".

Audax said...

Beautiful beautiful beautiful is all I need to say. You are one marvellous photographer and that pho looks so *drool* worthy. And those wontons wrappers superb. Bravo and kudos to you. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Anonymous said...

I can't decide what you do best ... cook? photograph? write? The soup looks amazing. Another challenge for me ... after I've reached some deadlines.

Looking forward to the Halloween party! but still trying to decide what to fix ...

Thanks for the updates - Oh!... And follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road. Follow, follow, follow, follow ...


Olive said...

your dessert wonton is one of the most beautiful I have seen, now I really don't have a chance to win Jaden's book LOL ..

great pho, amazing wonton dessert, you did really, really well with the challenge :)

Denise said...

Thank you to everyone for all of your comments and compliments! John, the amazing, patient, and wonderful man in my life, has taken many of our photos and continues to shower me with presents, including my camera, photography books, beautiful plates and bowls, lighting equipment, and our gorgeous dining room table!

Being relatively new to the food blogging world, I truly appreciate your comments to my posts and I strive to keep improving There's a Newf in My Soup! It has become such a passion for me, and I cherish the camaraderie.

Lauren said...

Woah! Love the wontons - such a creative take =D. Not to mention the pho & the photos - simply gorgeous!

Lisa Michelle said...

Your photos are stunning, and I love that you took this soup to Buffalo country! Great idea! However, I saw your wontons a few weeks back in the DK forum, and wow, I could not wait to gorgeous, and what a lovely presentation!