People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
11/28/2002 Duck pho my way (Pho de canard à ma façon)
For 4 servings:
1/2 large duck breast (half of one whole breast or one magret) 1 T. nuoc mam sauce 1 t. honey 1 t. lime juice 8 oz. square rice noodles 8-10 c. strong homemade chicken broth 2 heads star anise 3 cloves 1 3-4" piece cinnamon bark 3" piece ginger root, peeled and cut into thin rounds
At serving time: 1 small bunch cilantro, trimmed, washed and dried 8 leafy sprigs Thai or cinnamon basil 8 leafy sprigs mint 1 lime cut into wedges 4 Thai or serrano chile peppers cut on diagonal into thin rounds
Remove the skin and underlying fat from the duck breast and slice it crosswise into slices about 1/4" thick. Combine the next three ingredients in a shallow dish and toss the duck with this marinade. Leave to stand at room temperature 1-2 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt and add a few drops of oil. Cook the rice noodles a few minutes until barely done, drain, and put into a large bowl of cold water.
Make sure your chicken broth is strong and flavorful by reducing 12 cups to make 8-10 cups. Add the ginger, anise, cinnamon, and clove and simmer for 1 hour. Season with 1-2 tablespoons nuoc mam sauce or to taste.
Just before serving, heat a heavy skillet with a few drops of oil. When almost smoking, add the duck breast. Toss and sear briefly. Remove from heat.
Divide the noodles among 4 large, warm bowls. Top with the duck and ladle hot broth over. Serve with the remaining ingredients arranged on a platter and small bowls. If your guests are unfamiliar with eating pho, show them how to tear the herbs into the soup, and add lime and chile to taste.
While I've always appreciated the concept of pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup served with fresh herbs, I don't really care for its heavy beefy character. This poultry-based alternative is to me more delicious, and the rich, dark flavor of duck marries perfectly with the traditional pho flavor trio of clove, star anise, and cinnamon. Nourishing and invigorating on a cold evening, and perfect for satisfying a craving for a taste of the exotic.