Homemade beef pho and cheddar cheese popovers (cozy winter meals, pho the win)

One of my favourite things to do on a cold day in Ottawa is eat loads and loads of pho at one of the Vietnamese noodle shops in Chinatown. Lucky for me, a bunch of my old roommates live in the neighbourhood, so nearly every trip to see them involves a meal at one of these restaurants. And trust me, when I say there are no shortage of places to go (seriously, there is a Pho Bo Go La and a Pho Bo Go La 2. It’s like a bad sequel to a classic, but I digress..) I mean it.

For those who don’t know what pho is (like my entire family), let me try and explain. Simply put, pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, often made with chicken or beef and served with rice noodles, basil and bean sprouts, all swimming about in broth. If you’re like Ariel and I, you’ll often squirt a large amount of two mysterious sauces into said soup (I think one is some sort of hot sauce), mix it about, and enjoy the blossoms of flavour.

Bean sprouts and basil - classic pho toppings

Though you can order many different variations of pho, my favourite is one made with well done and rare beef. Number 5 on the menu, I believe.

Anyways, it was this style of pho that I decided to recreate for my family. I found this recipe, which got me started on tonight’s dinner. Turns out I didn’t actually use it very much, and just ended up half hazardly throwing things into the pot when the urge struck me. I was hoping my “it’s hard to screw up soup” mentality wouldn’t let me down.

Luckily it didn’t, and this was lovely. The chopped, fresh ginger really made a difference flavour-wise, and I loved the extra chopped green onions.

Note to people buying beef: You want beef that is thinly sliced, a la beef you would use for a Chinese fondue. They probably won’t have any cut and put out in the meat section, so you will need to find a kindly butcher employee and bat your eyelashes. Seriously, I could get used to freshly cut meat orders.

We ate this pho to the sound of the wind whipping up our backyard cliff and circling the walls of the kitchen. It was winter food bliss.

Moral of the story: homemade pho, pho the win.

Oh hey, little brother!

PS: I also made these cheddar cheese popovers. In retrospect, they probably weren’t the most culturally appropriate side to accompany my pho (no kidding), but they just looked so damn good. Cheese cheese cheese cheese… After a moment of panic when I thought they were going to be permanently stuck on the bottom of the muffin pan, my mom swooped in and saved the day. Slightly deformed, but delicious nonetheless. Using old cheddar is a must. (Note: have adapted the recipe slightly to hopefully avoid the sticking issue!)

Recipe: Homemade beef pho
Adapted from From Away
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 big piece of ginger (about 40 grams), thinly peeled and chopped
– 5 cups beef broth
– 4 cups water
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 4 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
–  4 green onions, chopped (white and green part)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
– 100 grams rice noodles
–  1 lb thinly sliced (by the butcher) beef
– Bean sprouts and basil leaves, for seasoning

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally until garlic begins to brown, about three minutes. Add the beef broth, water, cinnamon and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add 3/4 of the chopped green onions, stirring to incorporate. Add the jalapeno.

Add the rice noodles and half of the beef. Submerge the noodles and stir well. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining beef.

Serve in large soup bowls and allow people to add their own bean sprouts, basil and remaining chopped green onions.

Makes 5 servings.

Recipe: Cheddar cheese popovers
Adapted from Completely Delicious and Martha Stewart Living
– 4 large eggs
– 2 cups milk
– 2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 tbsp salt
– 140 grams old Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place muffin pan in the oven while it is preheating.

Use a hand mixer to whisk the eggs together in a large bowl until light and frothy, set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear around edges and milk is steaming, do not boil. Slowly add the milk to the eggs while whisking constantly. Mix in half of the grated cheese. Gently stir in the flour mixture.

When oven is preheated, remove the muffin pan from the oven and, insert muffin linings into the pan. Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup almost all the way to the top. Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 45-50 minutes. It is best not to open the oven door while baking, as the escaping heat may prevent the popovers from rising completely.

Take out of the oven, let cool on a wire rack and take out of the tin carefully. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 popovers.


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