Seafood Pho

I went to Le Cheval the other day and didn't get pho. It was the first occurrence of this phenomenon ever, and while I thoroughly enjoyed everything else that I ate there, I was left with a pretty big pho jones.

Browsing through the freezer contents the other day, I realized that I had a veggie bag ready to turn into stock (I save onion peels and random veggie trimmings in a freezer bag). I also had a bag of shrimp and prawn shells, and a few frozen squid.

I always wanted to make seafood pho...

...so I did, and it was awesome.

Basically, the process is the same as it always is when I make pho, regardless of the type of stock I start from.

First, thaw out the  frozen veggie cuttings.

Meanwhile, halve some onions, ginger, and garlic. Brush them with olive oil and roast them for 30-40 minutes at 450. Set them aside when finished.

Add the shrimp and prawn shells and the squid to the veggie cuttings and simmer for about an hour and a half over medium-low heat.

Strain all of this stuff out and return the stock to the pot.

Add the roasted onions, garlic, and ginger, some shiitake mushrooms, as well as the spice blend, 1/3 cup of fish sauce, a bit of oyster sauce, and a pinch of palm sugar.

The spices I use (clockwise from top):  black cardamom pods, green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise, coriander seeds, sea salt, fennel seeds, cloves.

Simmer for another hour and a half or so and strain again. Finally, add whatever fresh seafood you want and simmer until it's cooked.

Serve over rice noodles with fresh basil, cilantro, mint, and lime.  (A squirt of Sriracha optional but recommended).

This time around I used a pound of cod, and a half pound each of sea scallops and octopus. It was awesome and I had leftovers enough for like 6 more servings later on. 

So now I've done vegetable, beef, lamb, and seafood pho. What's next?


Guacamole my way.

I get asked to make guacamole a lot.

Not exactly sure why it always falls on me to make the guacamole, but I'm always happy to oblige. To be honest, I don't like other people's guacamole nearly as much as my own anyway, so it's pretty win-win... especially when i can get someone else to pay for the ingredients.

Having recently made and photographed a few batches, and having no glamorous entree or ridiculous salad to write about, I have decided to finally share my recipe.  You'll notice I like to have about a one-to-one ratio of avocado and other ingredients. If you live in the Midwest or a similar area where avocados are prohibitively priced, you can substitute cooked, mashed, whipped, and cooled peas for a few of the avocados... but I would recommend that instead of doing that, you just stop being a cheapskate and buy the extra avocados.  My own solution to this issue was simply to move to California. Over time, my increase in cost-of-living will balance out with my not having to spend 3 dollars for every avocado I buy.

Anyway, on with it!

6 medium-to-large avocados
1 medium red or yellow onion
3 limes
1 jalapeño pepper*
1 medium-large tomato
3 cloves of garlic*
large handful of cilantro
salt & pepper

*Nelson family unit conversions:
1 jalapeño = 2-3 jalapeños
3 cloves garlic = 5 cloves garlic

There is one critically important part of the guacamole-making process (in my opinion): Combine the lime juice and avocado FIRST!  This will prevent the avocados from turning brown, which will also prevent the guacamole from turning brown. Brown guacamole, while still just as tasty as its green counterpart, is a failure in my book. Fortunately it is incredibly easy to prevent by simply starting with these three steps:

1) Squeeze your limes into a medium-large mixing bowl. Don't leave the peel in the bowl, I just left it in for the picture so it didn't look like some random pale yellowish liquid.
2) Cut up the avocado. I like to take a butter knife and pre-dice each half of the avocados and then just scoop them out into a bowl.
3) Mash the avocado and lime together until you get a good blend between smooth and chunky. I like to just wail on it with a fork for a while...  Follow these three steps first and your guacamole will stay green until the last bite.

4) Dice up the onion and tomato and mix into the bowl.

5) Mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro and mix in.

6) Add cumin, salt, and pepper to taste, mix and serve.

Repeat this process at least once every few weeks for maximum satisfaction.