Beef broth –> consommé –> pho

by admin on November 30, 2007 · 18 comments

(Editor’s note: Here’s the Beef Pho recipe that accompanies this step-by-step guide.)

I came across some frozen beef bones at Whole Foods the other day, and decided to try to make some beef broth. When I got home, I grabbed James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups. Peterson is a master of classic French technique, and his beef broth recipe was included as the first step in making consommé.

The image of a really clear broth instantly brought the Vietnamese soup pho to mind, so I decided to make beef broth, then turn the broth into a consommé, then turn the consommé into pho.

It all started with beef bones and vegetables. I chopped a rib of celery, a carrot and an onion and roasted them with a few pounds of beef shank in a 400F oven until they were browned, about 45 minutes.

I put the vegetables and bones in a large pot and added enough water to cover them, along with 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, a small bunch of cilantro and a sprinkling of salt. I simmered the broth uncovered for 4 hours, adding a little water every now and then to keep the bones covered.

When the broth was done, I strained it and discarded the bones and vegetables. I put the broth in a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and refrigerated it so the fat would congeal. After a couple of hours I removed and discarded the fat with a spoon.

To turn the broth into consommé, I mixed together a half pound of lean ground beef and three egg whites with my hands. (Peterson called for adding the chopped vegetables from the broth too, but — oops — I had thrown them away.) The mixture looked and felt less than appetizing.

I whisked the de-fatted broth into the beef and egg white mixture until it was well-blended. I felt like I was ruining my long-cooked broth, but I had faith in Peterson’s technique.

I brought the mixture to a bare simmer and scraped the bottom of the pan to keep any of the mixture from browning on the bottom of the pan. I gently simmered the mixture for 45 minutes, moving the pot to different edges of the burner every ten minutes so it would bubble in a different spot each time.

Miraculously, a thick layer of coagulated foam formed on top of the broth, and I could see the broth clarifying underneath.

When it was done, I moved the top layer of foam to the side and ladled the clear consommé into a fine sieve.

The finished consommé was nice and clear.

Now for the pho. I put a small filet steak in the freezer so it would be easy to thinly slice. Dozens of visits to my favorite pho restaurant had taught me that thin raw beef cooks nicely when added just before serving the hot broth.

Meanwhile, I prepped most of the traditional pho garnishes — mung bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño and mint leaves. I could have added basil leaves and lime wedges, too.

I seasoned the consommé with a tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of fish sauce and brought it to a simmer.

I didn’t have rice vermicelli on hand, so I used thin Japanese wheat noodles instead. I added them to the simmering broth and cooked them until they were tender, just a couple of minutes.

I ladled the boiling broth into a bowl and added the raw slices of beef. They cooked within a couple of minutes but kept a pinkish hue.

I stirred in a handful of sprouts, some torn basil leaves, a few slices of jalapeños and a little bit of sambal oelek — and went to town.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex November 30, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Wow this looks good, I’m going to try it. Check out my ramen website:

bea at La tartine gourmande November 30, 2007 at 8:51 pm

I have just had dinner, but I would love to have a bowl now. One of my favorite ways to enjoy soup! Lovely explanation in images.

pholover November 30, 2007 at 9:08 pm

I’ve found my favorite Pho has a really rich beefy flavor, and no significant notes of anise or other strong flavors…how did yours taste? It looks lovely…

Lydia November 30, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Your pho definitely is less faux than mine! It looks delicious. I think I’m basically too lazy to make the consomme, but it does make a difference in the taste.

CJ McD December 1, 2007 at 9:02 am

Nothing like a spicy, steaming bowl of soup to warm chilly noses and toes.
It’s 13 degrees outside and all I can think of is- soup.

Your pho recipes is especially appealing. I’ve got steak thawing as I write. Can’t wait to put it all together.

Thanks brys!

Christine December 1, 2007 at 11:05 pm

This is probably my most favorite dish. There’s nothing like this broth, don’t you think? So fragrant, so aromatic, so simple.

Putting somen in phở – I must say, is quite…daring.

Another way to get a very clear broth is to first parboil the bones for a few minutes, drain and scrub them to remove sediment – all before adding cold water to make your stock. It might not be as clear as your consommé, but pretty darn close.

I’ve also been to Phở 75, and I think D.C. is lucky to have a place like that.

Meena December 4, 2007 at 4:49 pm

This looks absolutely delicious! I love noodle soups, and the Viatnamese versions are my favourites. I think I’m going to whip up a big batch for dinner tonight!

Tam December 4, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Consomme is too labor intensive and doesn’t get the correct taste.

The easiest way to make pho is to not roast the bones. Roasting causes the broth to be cloudy. My mom (beingVietnamese) just drops in ox tails and boils them at a slow simmer for hours (at least 4). Just skimming the foam from the broth as you would normally is enough. The only thing that needs roasting is the star anise, onion (charred), cinnamon sticks and ginger.

Nick December 4, 2007 at 5:43 pm

My wife and I make this as often as we can in the fall and winter. While living in DC we acquired quite a taste for it, and even sought it out when we were in Montréal on our honeymoon. Now we live in a small town in coastal North Carolina, and we’re in the process of turning all our friends onto it.

For delicious complexity, you just can’t beat slow simmered broth with anise and basil!

ele December 4, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Roasting does not make the stock cloudy, it adds depth of flavor and complexity. Cooking the broth at anything over the slightest simmer causes the cloudiness.

Thùy December 6, 2007 at 5:09 pm

interesting variation on phở. just wondering if boiling the noodles in broth would “contaminate” it with unwanted starch? i love roasting. do believe it adds a depth of flavor. perhaps risk blaspheme and ask my mom to test this technique out. but i am with Tam and will probably leave out the consommé steps. phở takes long enough. thanks for giving your spin on this.

gutenmter March 26, 2008 at 7:34 am

If you’re an avid PS3 gamer, then you know the importance of saving your progress for future game play.
Pls, help me!

ravinder April 6, 2008 at 10:53 pm

can u send me more conti food recipe

Debra April 14, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Great instructions. The only thing I’ve noticed in the Consomme recipe is a lack of an acid added to the hamburger & egg mix (along with the mirepoix, or vegies). According to a chief from the Culinary Institute of America, it’s the acid that breaks the bonds of the muck in the soup and causes the clarification to occur so “…you can read the date of a dime sitting at the bottom of the pot.” This is done with ripe tomatoes, white wine or lemon juice. Perhaps Peterson doesn’t find the need to include an acid. I don’t know, not having read his books.

The Cook August 25, 2008 at 1:24 am

wow, good blog.

I have one about pho too and plan to open a Pho house in my missouri hometime sometime soon. is my blog site

Me February 27, 2009 at 2:25 am

Soba is NOT pho. Not by a LONGSHOT.

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