Another stock day here - this time: PHO STOCK.
Pho is an incredibly aromatic Vietnamese soup that was one of our favorite meals out in Philadelphia, which has an abundance of great pho houses. Not so here in Sherborn, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. Since we’ve been experimenting with stocks for a while now, it was mostly a matter of getting the combination of spices traditionally used in pho.
For the stock:
- Marrow-filled knuckle bones were the first in the pot. These need to soak covered in water, plus 1/2c cider vinegar, for an hour before anything else can go in.
- Ginger is especially important to this stock. We used probably 5 inches of fat ginger root, sliced in half the long way and charred it a bit in the oven first to caramelize the sugars and deepen the flavor. Any onion we used also went in the oven with the ginger, though this isn’t necessary.
- Stock vegetables. Whatever is on hand works perfectly here. I’ve started keeping onion skins, carrot ends and any scraps from leeks, shallots, celery or garlic in a bag in the fridge instead of composting them right away. This way, whenever we make a stock there is a - forgive me - stockpile of produce ready to use what would otherwise just be compost.
- We also used some tenderloin scraps and bone-in shank cuts, first browned in the oven at 350.
After the bones finish soaking, add the browned meat and vegetables. Cover the whole deal with COLD water.
It takes a while, but eventually the baby stock will come to a boil - at this point it’s time to skim the scum that rises to the top. It always feels like it’s going to be nearly impossible to get all the scum out, but eventually the stock will clear up and you’ll have a lovely golden liquid. When the scum ceases, it’s time to add the spice bag.
In a little cheesecloth pouch, place:
- cinnamon sticks
- cardamom pods
- small handful star anise
- some cloves
- black peppercorns
- fennel seeds
The amounts here are pretty loose - we ended up with about 1/2c worth of spices all together. Use your instincts. Tie up the pouch and toss it in. At this point it’s also important to reduce the heat to simmer. We simmered this stock 10 hours. One of our references claimed all flavor can be extracted in as little as 3 hours, but I believe longer is better when it comes to stocks, especially when it comes to extracting the beneficial gelatin from the bones.
To strain this colossal batch of stock we first took out most of the giant pieces of veg and bone with a hand strainer, being careful to set aside edible meat to add to the pho later. Many lovers of pho, Alex included, enjoy slurping down tendons and tripe mixed right in with their more tame cuts of meat; traditional pho holds nothing back. However, we were a bit more choosy with what we saved, mostly just tenderloin scraps and some of the meatier pieces of shank.
Once most of the chunks were out we lined a fine strainer with cheesecloth and poured the stock through it to collect any particulate. What remained was a beautifully clear stock - almost 10 quarts worth! We put the stock outside over night (the fridge works too, but space was an issue and it’s certainly cold enough here) so that the fat would separate and congeal. In the morning we easily skimmed the solid fat from the stock, froze most of it, and set some aside to make pho for dinner. To be continued…