Monday, March 28, 2011

Beau's Pho Noodle Soup

After several years of urging, my husband has FINALLY agreed to write down some of his recipes. While he decides if he become a slave to his own blog, I've offered him a guest spot for a very reasonable rate right here. Without further ado, I will now turn over the microphone...

Since the green age of 13, I've been interested in food...evidenced by my sturdy physique. I still haven't recovered from having to wear husky pants as a kid, but that's a separate discussion. Over the years, I've dabbled with cooking, baking and micro-brewing. At least I'll be prepared if prohibition returns. Contingency plans are critical. While my craft brews may not win Oktoberfest awards quite yet, my family and friends are convinced it's time to take my food public.

While I like to flirt with all flavors and spices, I suppose my home-base is cooking in a New American style - taking classic American dishes and classing them up a little bit. Unfortunately, my waistline doesn't appreciate too many nights of homestyle cooking, so I do my best to mix it up a bit and incorporate extra veggies.

As a general side note, I don't like to follow recipes too closely. These are just guidelines. We all have different pallets, so go ahead...sprinkle on that extra soy sauce and Sriracha!

Tonight's menu is Pho Noodle Soup with soy and ginger pulled-chicken:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 quarts low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts (or equivalent amount of boneless chicken thighs), roasted w/ marinade (see below) and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 star anise
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other chili sauce)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 lime, juiced

Roast Chicken Marinade:
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup, low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp, lime juice
  • 1 tsp, rice vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

  • Scallions
  • Lime wedge
  • Rice Noodles (In an attempt at being healthier, I use brown rice noodles)
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Mint, roughly chopped (very key!)
  • Basil, roughly chopped
  • Bean Sprouts, raw (the heated broth will warm them up enough)
  • Snap peas, blanched

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Spread the marinade over the chicken breasts and then place in a small baking dish. Bake chicken until cooked through (~45 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and brown, approximately 5 - 7 minutes. Salt and pepper those puppies. After the onion has browned, add in the garlic and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Combine the cinnamon, bay leaf, start anise, chili sauce, lime, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper. Salt and pepper to taste (I sound like a broken record). Simmer covered for approximately 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the oven. When cooled, roughly chop into bite sized pieces and add to the soup. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes....the chicken-y goodness gets blended with the soup the longer you cook it.

Chef's note: I like to add a few extra herbs (cilantro, basil, and mint) to the broth at the end and let them simmer for a few minutes...but I also add extra herbs as a garnish when serving.

When you are ready to serve, pour the soup over rice noodles and add garnishes. Voila! Serve with an icy cold Coors Light (when the the Rockies are blue, of course). Just kidding... serve with something respectable like Sapporo.

It's like food porn

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where in the World is Karen Sandiego?

I'm home for the rest of the month. No more cruises around the Latin American coast, no more business trips to Chicago. It's been a confusing experience for me. While I wasn't looking, my travel tastes have radically changed. The relief I felt when I curled up in my very own bed last night was on par with the relief I felt when I walked off a plane from London after three months of a very, very bad relationship to see my family standing at the end of the arrivals gate, waving American flags and smiling. So, what am I whining about now?

I hate cities. That's news to me. I've lived and worked in them for years. I grew up in the Sex and the City age when every college-bound girl that I knew dreamed of moving to Manhattan. Sometimes on my afternoon walks around Boston harbor, I still catch myself thinking about lofts and window shopping and sky-high stilettos despite the fact that I know perfectly well that I don't like apartment buildings, spending extravagantly or sore feet. But living in the suburbs has distanced me from the hum of a city and not just geographically. It took Chicago less than four days to make me realize how far I've really moved from metropolitan life. From the second I stepped foot in our hotel, I couldn't wait to trade concrete squares for grass and traffic lights for trees. Even the beatboxing homeless man who followed us down Wacker Drive couldn't cheer me up. I mean, I missed the Supermoon for that? It all felt cold and lonely and suffocating in a way that no city ever has. It's not Chicago's fault though. That's just where I realized that I've changed.

Not for me

I want something else. Before this traveling stint, I got up-in-arms reading a blog that asserted that most American cities feel the same, unlike New Orleans which has a vibe of its own. Now I agree. Another thing I didn't like about Chicago is that it just felt so done. Chicago felt like New York to me, like Atlanta, like Newark, like Philadelphia, like Providence. What I liked about New Orleans - other than the endless hurricanes and Jello shots - was that it was different. In that town, I was aware that I was on the edge of mayhem. There was an air of literal insanity. Not everyone-has-their-issues insanity. Pure, profound mental instability that suggests that literally anything is possible, even probable. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland walking down Bourbon Street and that was before I was drunk.

The cruise stops were disappointing for a reason similar to Chicago's. The ports of Costa Maya, Belize City and Roatán were little more than outdoor malls. Probably because two of the three are owned by the cruise lines. I didn't even get off the boat at Cozumel which looked like Cancun 2.0. At the other ports, the intent locals crowded around the port exits were enough to deter us from going into town proper. Never before have I been afraid of going into less than savory areas. Hell, I've lived in several. This time, the close inspection of my purse, my clean clothes, my skin color made me too scared to explore. And I hated that. The next time I go to one of those countries or any others in the region, I won't be arriving from the direction of the ship terminal, that's for sure.

But there certainly were highlights. We saw sting rays, giant lobster and barracuda while snorkeling in Belize. We learned about the local Belizean beers from the friendliest waitress on Bannister Island while we swung in side-by-side hammocks. We molested half the statues on the Norwegian Spirit. We sat at a window in the front of the ship when it passed through a squall with hurricane force winds. We swam around and laughed and ate well (mostly).

Banana courtesy of me

Still, home is best. I've been steadily turning more homebody for the past few years but this is different. Maybe it's because for the first time since I was 18, I really feel like the word "home" applies to where I live. I'm not couch surfing and living out of my Corolla anymore. I'm not relocating constantly from town to town or apartment to crappy apartment. I like looking out the window and knowing the exact location of every shrubbery in my backyard. I like the neighbor with the cute golden retriever and the elderly one who takes 10 minutes to get her car in the driveway. In a world of constant comparison, everything else is being compared back here to my perfect little bubble where everything is to my liking. Nothing can compare to home, no matter how fabulous the cruise state room or how grand the view from a hotel room. I would trade any number of jacuzzis, fluffy towels and concierge stewards for the smell of my front hall.

Curiouser and curiouser

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Can't Every Day Be Like Today?

We woke up this morning to a chilly house. The furnace never came on after the guy from the gas company fiddled with it yesterday afternoon. Beau rampaged around the house and tried to get the pilot light lit but it was a lost cause. Instead of make him taking another day off to wait for them, I volunteered to wait around for the tech to come back. Besides, I needed a mental health day. Here it is, a picture an hour at a time.

8am: The waiting game with coffee and a little reading

9am: I'm watching you

10am: Finally unpacking from the cruise... two weeks ago

11am: Jillian Michaels is my favorite

1pm: That's grass! In my yard! I haven't seen that in months

2pm: Ugh, three weeks worth of laundry

3pm: Finishing seams

4pm: Scratching my head and checking a reference

5pm: Watched Destination Truth reruns and
waited for Beau to get home at 6pm

6pm: Skyped with my sister and nephew

8pm: Couched with my blanky

9pm: Cookie time (two of those are for Beau)

10pm: Goodnight