Tag Archives: rice

Speaking of Comfort Food – Pho Ga

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Even in the warmest months of the year I am still quite fond of soup. Because this is historically the season of lighter meals I will usually choose a broth based soup as opposed to the heavier chowders or other cream soups. Just lately too I have been feeling a little under the weather so I figured it was a perfect time for a pot of soup.

It was once chicken noodle soup that cured my blues, until I discovered miso soup, that is. With its salty essence of the sea combined with the health benefits of tofu and seaweed…miso soup just seemed so, well…healthy! Ah, but then I found Pho; a Vietnamese soup steeped with perfumey flavors of the orient in a warm and comforting bowl of goodness!

Pho is a light, broth based soup most commonly made with beef, featuring tender rice noodles, vegetables, and aromatic herbs and spices. Also very popular is Pho Ga, which is essentially the same soup, made with chicken. Upon reading Jaden’s Pho Ga post over at Steamy Kitchen this is the Pho I set out to make this past Sunday morning.

I decided I could come up with a reasonable facsimile of the broth using my good old standby chicken stock recipe along with a few additions I already happened to have in the pantry. I was very pleased with the results! Don’t let the length of the recipe scare you…it really comes together quite easily with the hardest part being the long slow simmering of the stock.

Starting right after my morning coffee I spent only 15 minutes getting the ingredients prepped and inside of 30 the stock was well under way. The garnishes on the other hand would require a trip to the market while the stock was simmering gently on the stove. As a bonus…the house smelled delicious by the time I got back from the store!

The garnishes by the way are the fun part of Pho! Usually served alongside so that you may add as much (or as little) as you like, the most common garnishes are: Hoisin sauce, Sriracha or other pepper sauces, sliced chili peppers, Thai basil, culantro, fresh lime, and bean sprouts. With so many to choose from, each bowl of Pho tastes just a little different depending on the individual diner.

Of special note: In this recipe I am using a technique for “Velveting” the chicken. I searched for what seemed like forever trying to find out just how Chinese and other Asian cuisines get their chicken so wonderfully tender and I have finally found it. Look for more about this technique in future posts!

Pho Ga

Notes: For the most authentic Pho flavor use a grill to brown the chicken parts instead of the oven. The spice quantities are approximate based on how strong you would like these flavorings to be.

Step 1 – Prepare a chicken stock as written in Singing the praises of Chicken Stock, omitting the Thyme and adding the following ingredients at the same time that you add the chicken pieces to the pot:

2 to 3 ounces – Fresh ginger root, about 2 inches, roughly chopped
2 to 3 pods – Star anise
3 to 4 – Whole cloves
1 Tbsp – Ground coriander
1 Tbsp – Whole celery seed
1 Tbsp – Dark agave nectar, or molasses

Step 2 – While the stock is cooking, “Velvet” the chicken…

Whisk together…

2 Tablespoons – Shaoxing wine
2 Tablespoons – Warm water
2 Tablespoons – Corn starch
1 – White of 1 large egg
1 – Pinch kosher salt

Then marinate 1 large chicken breast half, split lengthwise then sliced very thin, in this mixture for at least ½ hour, refrigerated.

Fill a wok (or a large wide frying pan) at least half full with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Carefully add ½ of the chicken, drained of excess marinade, and cook for one minute gently separating the chicken slices to prevent clumping.

When the chicken is solid white and cooked through (about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes) remove to a strainer to drain. Repeat until all of the chicken is cooked setting the strainer over a bowl to drain. Refrigerate the chicken until ready to use. Note: I used a Chinese Spider Strainer for this cooking process and a traditional 8″ mesh strainer to drain the chicken.

Step 3 – Slice a large white onion first in half, then in paper thin slices. Soak the onion slices in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Step 4 – Cook the noodles and serve…

Prepare one package of Bahn Pho (or Rice Noodles) per the directions on the package. Add a serving each of the noodles, the onion slices, and the prepared chicken to each serving bowl, then ladle over the broth to cover. Serve with your choice of bean sprouts, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha or other pepper sauces, sliced chili peppers, Thai basil, culantro, and fresh lime slices on the side.



Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 1)

As a follow up to Singing The Praises Of Chicken Stock I wanted to post a series of recipes that use chicken stock (or broth) in various ways. At the risk of repeating myself, stock is a valuable ingredient in healthful cooking and a means of boosting the flavor in what otherwise might be a boring and uninteresting dish. My recipes will always call for stock because I like the flavor but you may certainly substitute broth if you like.

Second only to the chicken stock, the mushrooms create a lot of flavor in this recipe. To coax as much flavor as possible from them I start cooking the mushrooms in a hot, hot pan. Because of the high water content in mushrooms, they create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cook. With the pan very hot, this excess water cooks away quickly leaving the mushrooms to brown. On a lower temperature the mushroom would steam instead of browning…that’s not what I want in this recipe!

I know I have mentioned Seeds Of Change quinoa & whole grain brown rice in a previous post. I can’t recommend this product enough; if you come across it at Costco or otherwise please do give it a try. I use it here because it is convenient, healthy, and the spices blend perfectly with the other ingredients. Other starch suggestions for this recipe would be brown rice, couscous, or even orzo. Check for seasonings if you use a mix, I needed no additional salt with the quinoa.

This one is rich enough that the only side I served it with was a nice green salad and was plenty for two with leftovers.

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

1 – Large Boneless Chicken Breast Half (about 12 oz.), halved lengthwise from the top and sliced very thin (as for a stir fry)
8 oz – Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 – Small Onion, chopped
2 – Celery branches, sliced (leaves add flavor…use them too!)
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh Thyme, left whole
2 Cups – Chicken Stock
2 Cups – Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice, pre-cooked
2 Tbsp – Unbleached Flour
Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
About 1/4 Cup – Panko Breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large (12”) skillet over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the mushrooms dry and begin to brown, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the onions soften. (Note: The mushrooms should be getting nice and brown by now. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables stick a little bit…they will loosen when you add the stock.)

When the onions become tender and translucent stir in the chicken, separating the slices and blending them carefully into the mixture. Continue cooking and stirring gently for another 5 minutes then Stir in one tablespoon of the flour until well mixed. Stir in the second tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring gently, for one minute more. Stir in one cup of stock and cook until some thickening begins. Stir in the other cup of stock and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, then stir in the quinoa and gently mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour all into a 9X9 casserole, sprinkle just enough breadcrumbs to cover evenly on top. Bake 25 minutes, allow a few minutes to rest and enjoy!


Menu – Broiled Fish with Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa & Brown Rice

Several friends have asked me to share some of my “Clean Eating” recipes as Kat and I have been trying to eat better foods on a regular basis. Some are new to cooking so I thought it would be helpful to include the recipes for the entire menu including each step in the preparation. So here is a super quick, healthy, yet tasty menu that’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. I would love to hear some feedback on how you like the recipe written in this fashion. If you like them I will include more “menu” posts as my blog continues.

Broiled Fish w/Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

Don’t let all my notes and stuff scare you…I just want to spell it our for my friends that are new to cooking. Start to finish this meal was uncomplicated and came together in about 1/2 hours time. (I almost typed 30 minutes…but we won’t go there!)

For the Fish you will need…

( Note: Figure on about 3 servings per pound of cleaned fillets. I haven’t been fishing in forever but I’ve been finding some really nice packaged fresh fish at Costco lately. Just check the “Packaged On” date and choose accordingly. The fresher the better!)

Fresh fillets of halibut (pictured), corvina, grouper, or tilapia if you must, sliced into 4 to 6 oz portions.
1 Tablespoon per serving, extra virgin olive oil
1 light sprinkle per serving – mixed dried Italian herbs in a grinder (I used McCormick’s).
1 Tablespoon per serving – jarred basil pesto (I used Kirkland brand from Costco).

For the Asparagus you will need…

(Note: These asparagus stems were about 1/2″ thick at the base. I clean the spears by grabbing the base with one hand and just below center with the other, then bend the asparagus until it naturally breaks. What you are left with at the base is generally the tough stringy part, and at the tip…the good stuff. I don’t always do it but you can blanch and freeze the bases to use in stocks or purees at a later time.)

6 to 8 spears per person – fresh large asparagus, cleaned and rinsed
1 Tablespoon – balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

For the Mixed Greens you will need…

About 1 cup per serving of bagged baby greens
Just enough dressing to barely coat the greens. ( I used http://www.briannas.net/flavors/real-french.html )

For the Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

(Note: I used http://www.seedsofchangefoods.com/our_foods/product.aspx?c=rice_grains&p=279 also from Costco. We love this mix and eat it once or twice a week. It’s ready in 90 seconds and it’s great plain or mix in anything you like from fresh chopped herbs and a little sautéed garlic or browned onions, to last nights leftover stir fry.)

About 1 Cup per serving Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice.

To Prepare…

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. clean, rinse, and pat the asparagus dry. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and oil until slightly thickened. On a foil covered cookie sheet gently roll the spears in a single layer while drizzling with just enough of the oil to coat. Place in the heated oven for 15 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is in the oven place the fish on another foil covered cookie sheet and roll each piece while drizzling with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. With the fish skin side down, lightly sprinkle each piece with the spice grinder. Set aside until the asparagus comes out of the oven.

3. In a large bowl toss the greens with barely enough dressing to coat. (Note: Don’t overdo it! The idea is to just season the salad without drenching.)

4. After 15 minutes, carefully remove the asparagus from the oven and turn the broiler on high. Grate a little Parmesan and black pepper lightly and evenly over the spears.

(Note for step 5: If you have a conventional oven, leave the door cracked open an inch or so to the first stop. This will prevent the broiler from overheating and cycling off. The fish should be about 4 inches from the coils or flame.)

5. Allow the broiler to heat up for at least a minute or so then place the fish in the broiler and close. Broil the fish for 4 minutes per inch of thickness…3 minutes if it’s 1/2 inch or less.

(Note: You want the fish to cook fast and until the flesh is just becoming opaque (no longer transparent) in the center. The fish will continue cooking even after it is removed from the oven.)

6. While the fish is cooking nuke the quinoa and prep your plates with about 1 cup each of the dressed greens and a carefully placed serving of the Asparagus. Add fresh tomatoes if you like!

7. Remove the fish from the oven and carefully place each serving on top of the greens. “paint” each piece with about 1 Tablespoon of the prepared pesto.

8. Finish the plate with an approx. 1 cup serving of the quinoa and….

Viola! It’s time to eat.