I’ve been craving Phở lately, so much so that when asked “If you could only eat one food for 30 days, what would it be?” I chose Phở. I love the simplicity of the heady broth with clear rice noodles, a topping of meat and the array of fresh garnishes, like basil, cilantro, jalapeno, bean sprouts and lime.
As I saw more recipes sprout up about “quick” Phở recipes, I looked into what actually sets it apart from other broths and soups. I knew it was in the broth. When I attended culinary school for a short season, one of the things we would do was roast meat bones in the oven during class, then put them in a large stockpot with water on the stove and simmer them overnight on low heat. The rich broth that resulted was what we used throughout our class in recipes the next day.
I’ve also noticed a trend in “bone broth”, a soup preported to have great health benefits. You can do a simple search to read more about bone broth or check out this article on Bone Broth for Health Building from the Jade Institute.
Fresh basil and bean sprouts are in short supply where I am right now, but I did have some vegetables on hand that I needed to use. I decided to make a beefy vegetable bone broth stew.
As you may know, I’m not big on recipes. I’ll share a general guideline of what I did, then you can recreate it however you’d like in your own kitchen. I believe that by really getting to know your food and working with it, you can develop your own guidelines for how you like your dishes to come together, especially with dishes like this. What I’ve found is less can be more, and ratio is very important. For instance, if I would have added all the cabbage that I cut up for this dish, I would have ended up with cabbage soup. 🙂
So, are you ready? Here’s one of my versions of a hearty bone broth dish.
For this dish, I used:
Sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
You can roast your bones in the oven or you can brown them on the stove with a bit of olive oil, which is what I did.
I seasoned them with just a very small amount of salt and some pepper. You have to be careful with the salt at the beginning because this cooks for hours. You could end up with an inedible concentration of saltiness if you use too much here.
Once you get them nice and brown with crispy bits at the bottom of the pan, and enough water to cover the bones (there should be a bit more water than this picture shows).
I simmered these at around 180 degrees for six hours. I know it was 180 degrees because I have one of those NuWave induction cooktops that you’ve probably seen on TV, and I love it! I had two of them, but one now, because mom 🙂 Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered if they work or are worth the money, I am here to tell you yes, they do, and yes they are. The lady on the infomercial is right, there is no guessing with the temperature. It also has a timer so that it turns off automatically. Very handy for people who get sidetracked…
The only downside to the NuWave might be the noise. I has an exhaust fan on the bottom. It doesn’t usually bother me, but it did when I was making this because the sound of silence was beautiful in my space. Anyway, here is what it looks like as it cooks. As I mentioned, I should have had more water over it. All of that stuff you see floating at the top? You’re supposed to skim it off. It was difficult to skim around the bones so I ended up having less than clear broth. So, if you want clear broth, make sure you have more water than this and can easily skim 🙂
While that was simmering, I did a lot of other things like run an errand with my mom, actually put on makeup, tidy my apartment, talk with some friends and do a bunch of other things you might do on a Saturday. I mention that because when I show people my food, they lament about the time it takes. Maybe they believe you have to just stand in a kitchen for 6 hours straight to make stock? I don’t know, but I think we just make time for whatever is important. I could say I don’t have time to do xyz, for the simple reason that I don’t want to make time to xyz. Once you find your want to, you CAN make the time to do important things in your life. Just like anything else, right?
So, another thing I did while the stock was simmering was scrub these carrots.
Why did I take a picture of them with that handy dandy veggie scrubber? Because I try to get carrots with the greens still on top. We’ve gotten so used to those little shaved carrots that we think are baby carrots when what they really are is baby-cut carrots. That means that they take big carrots and cut them down into miniature sizes, stick them in a bag and call it a convenient day.
Cut carrots can last a while in a bag with fresh moisture. The ones with greens, not so much. Just get a bunch and stick it in your fridge for a couple days to see what happens. The green tops dry and the carrots get wilted. I read somewhere that getting them with the greens still on is the freshest way you can get them, so that’s what I do. I just resonates with me. Plus, they seem to be so tender that all I need to do is give them a good scrub with a brush instead of peeling them (and wasting so much of the carrot). So, if you get them with the greens on, be sure to use them right away. If not, you’ll want to clean them and put them in a bag with some moisture so that they hold longer in the fridge.
I chopped off the ends of the carrots and some celery to use in the stock. You know, the white ends and the top parts of the celery and the skinny bottoms of the carrots? The parts that aren’t so great in the final dish. They make great pieces for flavoring your stocks.
Then I took the middle pieces and chopped them up to a size that I’d like to have appear on a spoon. My mom always mentions how I cut things proportionate to how it will fit on the spoon and ultimately, your mouth. I just enjoy chopping. It’s part of my food meditation process.
I didn’t have a potato, but I did have some Jicama. I love to shred Jicama and add cilantro and lime, let it marinate for a few minutes and use it as a topping. The other day I added some fresh corn cut off the cob to that mixture and used it like a salsa fresca. Which is why I had this piece of Jicama on hand. Jicama is rather easy to skin too. You just sort of cut and peel it away.
I chopped the Jicama in bite sized pieces also. I put these in a separate bowl because like potatoes, they can get brown when exposed to air. I added some water and a squirt of lemon so that these chopped little delights would hold until I was ready for them.
So the other day, I used some cabbage in a hot dish. I chopped it small, sort of bite sized, and I just wasn’t crazy about it. I decided that I like cabbage to be a little bigger in my dishes. Maybe because it’s wilty when it’s cooked? I don’t know, I just went with my mouthfeel on that. So here’s some yummy cut up cabbage. This size was perfect.
Six hours later, I took out the bones.
I removed the meat and cleaned it. That means removing the gristle and fat. Nobody wants a mouthful of gristle in their stew, which is why so many people avoid barbacoa. The secret to good barbacoa is cleaning it, but I’ll share that in another blog post. As for this meat, it was from the neck bone, so it was very similar to barbacoa meat. Just look at how much edible meat came off those bones!
While I was working on that meat, I added the carrot and celery ends (plus one additional carrot and stalk of celery for good flavor) and some fresh smashed garlic cloves to the broth. I also added back in the clean bones and simmered for about an hour. You could also add a raw or roasted onion here.
When that was done, I removed and discarded all the vegetables and bones. At this point, I would have poured the stock through a cheesecloth, but I didn’t have one, so I used a fine sieve. I added the broth back to the pot, then added the celery and carrots. I cooked that for about 15 minutes (covered).
Then came the chopped Jicama and another 15 minute simmer. After that, the cabbage and a small chopped tomato and another 10 minute covered simmer.
I added the cleaned meat, topped that baby with a lid and simmered just 5 more minutes to heat through.
Here is some fresh, organic cilantro. I’ve had it in the fridge for about a week. The way I keep it fresh is by giving it a fresh rinse every couple of days and keeping it wrapped in a damp paper towel. Just look at those refreshing pieces of greenery on display…
I picked some leaves off of the cilantro, cut some lime wedges and poured my bowl. Though the broth wasn’t as clear as it could have been, it was fantastic. I think it looks like glass in this shot.
Besides how little it costs to really make good food for yourself and those you care about, the other benefits are that you know exactly what’s in it, you know who made it, and learning the art of meditating with food. Most of all, you discover how to integrate love into your food.
In today’s fast paced, we-want-it-quick mentality around our meals, isn’t it time that we stepped back and began to form a relationship with what nourishes us the most?
You can nourish your soul and your heart while nourishing your body. Slow down and feed with love. ♥
PS. Did you know that there is actually a Slow Food movement? In 150 countries around the world, it’s kind of a thing. 🙂 Check it out at SlowFoodUSA.org.