Easy Chicken Pho

As with so many of my recipes, this is not truly authentic. I’m lucky there are many Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California that serve delicious gluten-free pho (both beef and chicken). I’m also aware that every place I’ve ever gone has a slightly different variation of the broth.

Some are salty and a bit spicy. Some have a bit more sweetness. Most are very rich, with intense meat or vegetable flavor.

These different flavor profiles make me confident my soup is just fine for those times when I don’t want to venture outside to get my pho fix. And when I say this soup is addictive, you can either take my word for it, or, well, become an addict yourself!

Yes, beef pho is traditional, but I haven’t mastered a good beef broth (I’ve mastered an okay beef broth), so I stick with chicken when I’m dining at home. Some things, I believe, are best left to the experts.

Lentil Soup

When I get obsessed with a food, I get really obsessed. Like I’ll eat a particular food every day until my friends stage an intervention. I think the first time this happened was the summer I was nine. Ever wonder how many tiny tuna sandwiches a girl can make from a long, skinny loaf of French bread?

I know the answer. To say more is to tell you too much about me.

Luckily, I outgrew that obsession before it was taken away from me.

So, other foods that have inspired this level of devotion in me? Chopped salad. Oh, a good chopped salad is like heaven. This may be where I determined salads should be good or not offered at all.

And lentil soup. I think I was 28 or so when I first had lentil soup. I was wary, coming from a household where vegetables were regarded with suspicion. Of course, I was also trying to be totally cool with the fact that I tried a) hummus (OMG!) and b) lentil soup in the same meal.

Nothing was ever the same.

Making lentil soup is absurdly simple. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there is only one rule, and that is the addition of acid right before serving. Lemon juice or vinegar turns lentil soup into something one obsesses over. Don’t be shy, taste and taste, adjust.

Trust me. After all, I ate lentil soup every day for, oh man, a month!

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This soup can be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.[/box]

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

It’s April in Southern California, and I’m staring at the grill every night saying, “Okay, tomorrow. Tomorrow, we grill.” But this being a weird April for weather, tomorrow comes, and it’s just not quite grilling weather. I mean, we had snow falling in the near mountains just two days ago. I can’t even find the energy to clean the grill.

So I’m thinking soup these days. Lots of soup. My trusty Lentil Soup is on deck (I always have the makings for lentil soup because when the craving hits, it hits hard), but a cruise through the refrigerator reminded me that I had leftover roasted cauliflower. I vaguely recall thinking “soup” at the time. Then the moment came and, voila!, I’d made this soup.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This recipe is cauliflower soup the long way, but, as you can see from the above, you can shortcut it by using leftover roasted cauliflower. Heck, ain’t nobody making you do the roasting either. It’s your soup, do it the way that works best for you![/box]

Your Gluten-Free Pantry: Basic Chicken Stock

A few years ago, I realized I was wasting a lot of money buying chicken stock. I go through so much of it when cooking, and spending a couple of dollars per container (on the high, I’m going to go organic and all that, end) was insane, especially since making good stock is so easy. I throw everything into the stock pot and let it simmer while I’m doing my other Sunday chores.

It’s good, it’s rich, and not too salty. Plus, I always have stock on hand — no more coming home, starting a meal, and discovering I forgot to buy stock.

Depending on what I’m doing, I make fresh stock every three to four weeks.
What makes this easier for me is assiduous collecting of bones and vegetable scraps throughout the month. I’m a big consumer of rotisserie chicken (nothing makes for faster on-the-go meals), so I freeze the bones after I pull off all the meat. I also toss leftover onions, carrots, and celery into my freezer bag for added flavor.

Roasted chicken bones tend to produce a richer flavor, so I prefer this route over cooking a whole hen…mostly because the resulting meat is so bland, it’s hard to imagine using it in any recipe. Plus stock from a boiled chicken doesn’t have the right golden color. It is pale and insipid, especially when compared to a stock made from roasted bones.

It probably should go without saying, but this process also works incredibly well for making turkey stock.

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