Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Not to Make Chicken and Mushroom Pho



My first attempt at making pho was needless to say a bit of a disaster. Now don't get me wrong, the picture of the pho above was not horrible. It was fine. I ate it for dinner and was satisfied. It just wasn't the kind of pho I was going for. I'm sure I could give the recipe, and someone out there would love it. I mean it's soup. But it was too salty, and the flavors were just too strong for what pho is supposed to be.

 I think the route of all the evil stemmed at the fact that I had actually never had pho before I tried to make it myself. DUMB. Like so so so dumb. Italian dishes - ok I could probably make that without having tried the original. Cajun - again no problem, because they are flavors and ingredients I am used to. I can get away with changing this for that or doing my own order of operations etc. If I want to experiment in the kitchen, I shouldn't be experimenting with recipes for a dish I have never had. That doesn't make any sense! And pho is a whole different ball game. Granted I went out in New York (did I mention I live there now?) and had pho that actually tasted a lot like mine, and I didn't like it. It wasn't light and kinda sweet like the incredibly delicious pho I had for the first time in New Orleans. And maybe there are many different techniques and styles and I hit the nail on the head when I made my version that would rock someones world, but not mine.

So I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. My stepdad got a really bad case of food poisoning (or something terrible) that left him incredibly sick for a couple of days. He's a doctor, so getting sick is not something that happens often for him. (Or maybe its a father figure thing. My dad also NEVER gets sick. ever) I wanted to make some soup for him because, although I have about a million Pinterest pins of soup recipes, I have never actually made soup before. My stepdad LOVES all food types (ethnicities? genres?) that end in "ese" - Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Taiwanese (ok Thai but you get the picture). So I figured he had to love pho, and of course I mentioned the idea and he loved it. Basically, I had no idea what I was in for. A million dollars worth of groceries, and several hours later, I was finally straining out my stock - or base or whatever its called - and my mom comes in to the kitchen to chat. Now I know me mentioning the next part will absolutely break her heart because she felt so so terrible after it happened, but she accidentally dumped out my strained stock that had taken me SO LONG to prepare.


Accidents happen. It seriously could have happened to anyone. And for some reason, I just had a gut feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that it was going to happen. I don't know why I knew, I just kind of did. My mom is a chronic cleaner. She can't help it. Sometimes she will pick up my fork or cup or plate while I'm still eating to clean it. So when she saw the murky-ish water in a pot in the sink, it was her instinct to dump it out. Immediately after it happened we stared at each other in silence. It was one of the moments where there were just no words. Yep - that just happened. And nope - I will not be making it again. So we called up our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, ordered some up and I picked it up 20 minutes later.

And guess what, it was amazing. Absolutely delicious, and CHEAP. considering the money we blew on ingredients - SO not worth making it myself. Leave it to the pros - It also tasted NOTHING like what mine was going to taste like. Mine had a weird spiciness because of the soaked pepper flakes with back notes of cinnamon because of some recipes I read that called for that. No thanks. I will make it again one day, but after I start learning how to make stocks in culinary school.


What I learned NOT to do after my first pho experience:


  • Unless you want it spicy (or even have a tiny note of spice), don't use red pepper flakes. at all
  • Don't use a cinnamon stick. Use a pinch of cinnamon if you think it might add something, but the stick is way too powerful of a flavor for a small batch. 
  • Do NOT use shiitake mushrooms in soup (unless you remove the bottoms) They are pretty, but the bottom is way too tough for eating. (I bet that's a known fact and I'm just an idiot, but you live and you learn)
  • MOST IMPORTANT LESSON: Don't use chicken stock or broth. Not even reduced sodium that has been cut with water (because that is what I used) It's not authentic and will not give you that light and deliciously sweet and mild taste that you long for in a chicken pho. 
  • I also need to remember exactly what kind of sprouts I used but if they have little red dots at the bottom that look like chili flakes - don't use them because they also taste like chili flakes and are too bitter and weirdly spicy for the soup. 
  • Just because you poached the chicken, doesn't mean its not going to be dry. Learn how to properly poach because that was dry as ef 
  • Don't buy all of those ingredients unless you have a line-up of similar meals that require those ingredients because you will be stuck with a boat load of herbs and nothing to do with them if you don't. (Check out my shrimp curry recipe - that was a HUGE success, and used some of the ingredients) 


The driest poached chicken. The second I learn how to do this in culinary school I will do a post on it because it's supposed to be a very low fat method for cooking chicken breast...




None of this shiz should have been the in pot in the first place..."A" for effort Big Suz