Update: Woohoo! Thanks to your votes, I won and am now the proud owner of ten pounds of prawns.
Today, I woke up to something I haven't heard for the last few days. Silence. No pots clanging, no loud, festive Pakistani wedding music, and no uncle singing off key to accompany the aforementioned festive music. See, for the past few days, our house has been home to numerous friends and family members who came together to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and my brother-in-law's wedding on Saturday. We figured if we were going to have one giant event that required lots of planning, preparation, and coordination, we should tack on a second. 'Cause that's how we roll.
Needless to say, the past ten days have been filled with constant chatter, many tellings (and re-tellings) of embarrassing family stories, and way too many singing uncles. Oh, there was also a day when I made Thai green curry for twenty. The same day that someone drank the last of my coffee. And the same day I told this coffee thief that he could not have any of my curry for dinner for his blatant violation of my coffee rights. But that's a story for another blog post. This is a blog post about the beauty of silence. Well, silence and pho.
A few days ago, the good folks at Marx Foods sent me a glorious sampling of their dried chiles for their "A Chile & A Spoon" recipe challenge. Bloggers were asked to create an original recipe for a dish that requires a spoon to eat. Oh, and we had to use at least one type of chile in the recipe. Challenge accepted! I mean, I love chiles. I sprinkle cayenne on my pizza, dot my eggs with sriracha, dip potato chips in Valentina hot sauce, and mix samba oelek into my chili.
So when the wedding guest crescendo would reach an all time high and uncles were running around shrieking about transporting us to the hotel, aunts were running around shrieking about their outfits, and kids were running around shrieking just 'cause, I would close my eyes and think of my chile recipe. It would be warm. And spicy. And comforting. And I would make and eat it in silence.
So today, my first day of silence in quite some time, I did just that. I found a giant bag of nondescript beef bones in the freezer. I threw them in a pot, covered 'em with water, and let the concoction simmer for a few hours. At about the half way mark, I tossed in some whole spices, including cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, bay leaf, star anise, whole coriander seeds, and three beautiful Japones chiles. I know that most people opt to season their plated pho with sriracha but I felt it important that the broth have its own heat. Towards the end, I seasoned the broth with fish sauce, salt, and wait for it... azucar mascabado. Fancy, I know. I'm guessing brown sugar would work just as well. I happened to have the muscovado sugar and figured now was as good a time as any to give it a whirl.
Oh, and I guarded the simmering broth like a ninja. Spending ten days in a house filled to the brim really helps hone your survival-of-the-fittest mentality.
Once the broth was ready, I drank a giant bowl of the aromatic, spicy, warm goodness all by itself. I mean, I taste tested to make sure the flavors were balanced. Then, I added the cooked rice noodles and ate another bowl. I mean, taste tested again to make sure the noodles worked with the soup.
Finally, I made myself a third bowl, I mean, first bowl, with noodles, topped with thinly sliced flank steak, and poured the hot soup on top. I topped the mixture with some homemade chile sauce because well, you can't receive a giant supply of chile and not make your own chile sauce.
And on my fourth bowl, I mean second bowl, I realized I kinda missed the wedding party chaos, the shrieking kids, and the cackling aunts. But not the coffee thief. And certainly not the singing uncles. After all that, how can you not sympathize and vote for my entry? Go here to vote!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary sampling of dried chiles from Marx Foods. I was not compensated in any other way. The recipe and family chaos is my own.
3 pounds beef soup bones, oxtail, shank (or any combination of beef and bones)
1 gallon water
1 onion, peeled and cut in quarters
2 inch piece of ginger, cut in quarters
1 small cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
3 dried chiles
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon cloves
1/2 tablespoon peppercorn
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon muscovado sugar
1 Bag Dried Rice Sticks
1/2 pound flank steak
Homemade chili sauce or sriracha (recipe below)
Cover beef bones with water and boil for approximately one hour. You may need to skim the surface of the stock a few times at the beginning. Add the onion and dried spices. I guess you could tie up the spices in a cheesecloth bag but I kinda like the spices floating around freely. Oh, and I don't own any cheesecloth. Boil for another hour. Add fish sauce, salt, and sugar. Boil for another hour. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Cook rice sticks according to package directions. Add to bowl. Top with sliced flank steak. Pour boiling hot broth on top. The broth should cook the flank steak.
Add toppings. I stick with chili sauce only because I've spent four hours concocting the perfect beef broth and I'm not about to corrupt it with things like bean sprouts and mint.
Enjoy (in silence or in chaos)!
6-8 dried chiles (I used a combination of de arbol and japones)
1/4 cup vinegar
Check out the uber-detailed post on reconstituting dried chiles on the Marx Foods website. Get distracted by the crazy, huge selection of products. Move on to the section on culinary techniques. Read about how to cut up a rabbit fryer. Remember that you're trying to make chile sauce and you'll likely never come in contact with a whole rabbit fryer. Remove stems from dried chiles and reconstitute 'em. Add the vinegar and blend in a food processor. Cook for about five minutes, seasoning with salt and sugar to taste.