My oldest stepson, Mike, just began his 37th beautiful year on earth. Every year for his birthday I make a “request” meal as my gift to him. Sometimes he will request a theme or country, like last year he said Mexican so we had spicy guacamole with chips to start, lobster enchilladas with avocado corn relish and salsa verde, black beans with red pepper topped with queso fresca, big salad, and for dessert tres leches. This year he said he wanted SEAFOOD PHO. I have to confess I have never eaten Pho so was at a bit of a loss, but had a blast researching ingredients and different points of view on Pho.
|Mike about to dig into Seafood Pho
Apparently some believe Pho should be made only with beef, although I found recipes for chicken, pork and seafood. The important aspect of making Pho is the stock so I began making the stock the day before Mike’s big dinner.
But let’s start at the beginning…
We began the birthday feast with spring rolls and 2 different dipping sauces.
A friend of mine who is Vietnamese told me about an Asian market in Quincy, MA called the Kam Man. I found everything I needed at this fabulous and huge supermarket. In addition to fresh and wonderful produce, they had meats, fishes, whole ducks, spices, sauces, 2 aisles dedicated to different types of seaweed…you name it; they have it! Kam Man is very similar to my favorite market in Tucson that my friend Robb introduced me to a couple years ago. Lee Lee’s carries foods from all over the world, plus has a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant next door. Back to Mike’s dinner…
SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS
2 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
8 rice wrappers (8.5 in. diameter)
8 large cooked shrimp
1 1/3 Tbsp. chopped fresh Thai basil (or regular basil if you can’t find Thai)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 leaves lettuce, chopped
1 thinly sliced cucumber (slice the long way; use a peeler to get slices super thin)
4 thinly sliced scallions, green and white parts
8 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove minced garlic
1 small hot chili, de-seeded and finely diced
3 tsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic chili sauce
Mix all ingredients. Let sit for an hour to ripen.
3 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. finely chopped peanuts
Mix same as above.
In Arizona we used to have a neighbor who is Vietnamese. Way (I have not spelled her name correctly, but this is how she pronounced it.) made the most unbelievable spring rolls and she made it look easy. This was my first attempt at making spring rolls. They did not look as pretty as Way’s, but they sure were delicious!
|Here I am beginning to roll the spring rolls
Pour near boiling water into a bowl. Drop in the rice vermicelli for 3-5 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Fill another large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for a second to soften. Lay wrapper flat on a damp linen dish towel (do not use terry cloth). In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, a couple slices cuke, 2 or 3 pieces of thinly sliced scallion, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce. Do not put the filling all the way to the edges so you have room to wrap and roll. Fold in both edges and gently, but tightly roll up the wrapper to form a log. The rice wrappers tear quite easily so if you rip a hole you can add a second wrapper to enclose. As you can see in the above photo, I had all ingredients sliced and chopped and then as I made each spring roll I placed under another damp linen towel to keep moist until time to serve.
I think you could add any veg you like or thinly sliced pork or other seafood. Since the entree for Mike’s birthday was simply soup, I thought we should have a second appetizer so I made…
CHICKEN SATAY WITH PEANUT SAUCE
1 cup plain yogurt (I used 0 fat Chobani Greek style)
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. tumeric
1 tsp. salt
Wooden skewers soaked for grilling or I used long metal skewers since I planned to take the chicken off the skewers to serve.
PAM or other vegetable oil for grilling
1 1/2 pound chicken breasts, slightly flattening (see previous blog for suggestions on pounding chicken) and cut into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine yogurt, ginger, garlic, curry, and tumeric in a shallow bowl. Stir to combine. Place the chicken strips in the yogurt marinade and gently toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for a couple hours.
Thread the chicken (this is a goopy job!) onto the skewers. Place on medium hot grill, spray with a little cooking oil to prevent sticking (it still will stick a little). Grill for 3-4 minutes per side until nicely seared and cooked through. Serve on a platter with lettuce leaves, cilantro and a big bowl of peanut sauce.
1 cup either chunky or smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup Ponzu citrus seasoned soy sauce (found this at the Kam Man’s…fabulous!)
2 tsp. chili paste (I used Sambal Oelik)
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish.
Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, chilli paste, brown sugar and lime juice in blender or food processor. Puree to combine. While the motor is running, drizzle in the hot water to thin out the sauce (you may not need all of it). Pour the sauce into a nice serving bowl and garnish with the chopped peanuts.
I like to keep various soup stocks on hand in the freezer and I just happened to have a lobster broth which is what I used as a base to begin the Pho stock. To this stock I added another couple lobster bodies, shrimp shells, skin of striped bass and simmered for about 2 hours to rich up the original lobster stock. Drain. Add mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion) back into the drained lobster broth and simmer for another couple of hours. Drain. Now the stock is ready for its final simmer with spices braised onion, ginger and garlic.
Ginger root, about a 3 inch piece
5 cloves garlic
Spice blend: 2 large black cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 star anise, 1 Tbsp. sea salt, 2 Tbsp. fennel seed, about 12 whole cloves
1/3 cup fish sauce
Dash of oyster sauce
Dash of Sriacha sauce
Shitake Mushrooms, about 1 cup
Mung Bean sprouts, about 1 cup
Garnish: chopped cilantro, fresh basil, mint, and limes.
Pea Shoots (optional garnish)
1 lb. scallops
1/2 lb. shrimp
1 lb. squid
1 striper filet (striped bass)
|My other son, Justin caught the striper.
Halve the onions, ginger and garlic. Brush with olive oil and roast them for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees. Add these and the spice blend to the stock and simmer for another hour. Drain.
Add 1/3 cup fish sauce, a dash of oyster sauce, dash of Sriacha sauce and a pinch of sugar, and simmer for another 1-2 hours. Finally add mushrooms, bean sprouts, uncooked rice noodles, and fish and simmer until it is cooked. Serve with chopped cilantro, fresh basil, mint, limes and extra Sriacha for those who like it hot!
|I sliced the squid into rings before adding to the Pho.
|Extremely large shrimp and fresh sea scallops ready to drop in.
|Time to eat–An ngnon nhe!
For the final course I made Mike a very non-Vietnamese cake using one of his favorite ingredients…and I do not mean Chocolate!
CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE
This cake is ridiculously rich and delicious. This also was a first for me so I had no idea it would be so big. When all frosted it stood an impressive 18 inches high! This recipe came from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA
|I used pansies to decorate the cake!
4 cups white flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 pound good quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups Guinness or other stout
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup sour cream
4 sticks unsalted butter (Yikes!…that’s a lot of butter!)
2 cups whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups Guinness and 2 cups butter to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in large bowl. Using electric mixer beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl. Add the stout/chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool cakes on rack for about 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on the rack.
I frosted the cakes with 2 cups whipping cream, a tsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla. I actually could’ve used more whipped cream as the cakes were so gigantic.
Justin’s birthday is in November so we will do this all over again with his choice of menu. I honestly think sometimes they come up with these things just to see if they can stump me. So far they have not!
We concluded the festivities with the mile-high cake, a wee glass of Guinness and a spectacular fireworks display shot off our back deck. It certainly was a birthday to remember. Happy Birthday all over again Mike!!
Here’s a quick technical note before I sign off for today. If you are interested in searching for a certain recipe or tip, go to: www.cookwithcindy.com
and enter the word you are searching for in the SEARCH BOX at top left of the first page of my website. If it is something I have blogged, it will take you to it. For example, Teriyaki Chicken wings will take you to the tribute to my dear friend Aggie. These wings were her favorite! Let me know if you have trouble finding something and I will help you out.
Thank you once again for tuning in and sharing
Mike’s festive birthday celebration!
As they say in Vietnamese…VO! or CHEERS!