Have you ever warmed your face over a steamy bowl of Vietnamese pho? Sure, the word itself does not roll off the American tongue easily, but once you take your first slurp, you will continue to crave it like your grandma’s chicken noodle soup.
Enter the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central, an outstanding slow cooker practically made for making pho. As a recipe blogger for Cuisinart, they sent me their 3-in-1 6-quart Cook Central to create a dish that inspires you to use a slow cooker with all of its great features. Unique to this appliance is the browning and searing function. If you have used a standard slow cooker, you know that browning beef has to happen in a skillet on the stove. The Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central has this feature built in so you can do everything you need right within the appliance, a perfect feature for pho.
WHAT INGREDIENTS MAKE A GREAT PHO BROTH?
- Beef and beef bones – Bone marrow, connective tissue and collagen, and flavor that you cannot get by just boiling beef. Beef shank, oxtail, and leg bones are ideal, and for this recipe, I used 3.5 pounds of beef shank.
- Spices – Cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and coriander seeds add layers of flavor beyond the beef.
- Charred onions and ginger – Adds smoke from the char and sweetness
- Fish sauce – The ultimate umami flavor addition along with a little amber, caramel coloring
- Salt and sugar – Considering how much water you are using, you will need a little salt and sugar. Adjust per your individual tastes.
There are three steps to accomplish prior to turning the slow cooker on for the day:
One of the characteristics of pho is a crystal clear broth. To achieve this, the beef and bones must be boiled for a few minutes prior to slow cooking. This allows some of the fat and beef debris to cook off. If you do not do this, you will have to spend a lot of time skimming and straining your broth. Remove the beef and bones and run cold water over them, using your hands to pick off any stray pieces of meat and the fat from inside the bone marrow.
Inside the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central, you can place the spices on the dry surface and turn the setting to brown at 350 degrees for 3 minutes. Stir the spices around and you will begin to smell the flavors, gently toasting them to let some of the oils out.
Charring the onions and ginger is easy and can be done in your oven on the broil setting in about 20 minutes.
When the broth has finished cooking, you can strain and discard the beef and bones, onions, and ginger. Use a fine mesh sieve and cheese cloth to remove any small impurities left behind.
NOW YOU HAVE THE BROTH, BUT WHAT TURNS THE BROTH INTO PHO?
- Rice noodles – These can be either refrigerated fresh noodles or dry noodles.
- Bean sprouts – Adds crunch
- Chilis or hot peppers – Jalapenos or Thai chilies, thinly sliced, bring the heat
- Thinly sliced beef – You can use any cut of meat you like as long as it is almost paper thin
- Scallions – Great for color and crunch
- Serve with Sriracha, hoisin and fish sauce – Good pho broth won’t need these additions, but every person tastes food differently.
Once you have strained the liquid, the Cuisinart 3-in-1 offers a great surface to gently cook the thinly sliced meat. Turn the setting to brown/sear at 350 degrees. In just a few moments, the surface is hot and ready. My beef was sliced so thin I only needed to cook it at about a minute per side.
If you have fresh rice noodles, you can soak them in warm water for a few minutes and they are ready to go. Dried rice noodles require soaking and then a quick dip in boiling water.
Arrange the bean sprouts, chilies, beef and scallions in small bowls for you and your family to create their own pho. Simply ladle the broth into bowls and add all of the ingredients in amounts to your liking. You will end up with something similar to this:
Could this dish be made without the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central? Of course, but the versatility in the appliance allows you to make several of the steps required without using additional pots and pans. Since you can toast the spices inside it, slow cook the broth and sear the meat, the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central does the hard work for you. And fewer dishes to clean is always a plus in my book.
SLOW COOKER VIETNAMESE PHO
FOR THE BROTH:
- 3 pounds beef shank
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 piece of ginger, about 6 inches
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Rice noodles
- Rice noodles
- Thinly sliced beef
- Thinly sliced jalapenos or Thai chilies
- Chopped scallions
- Bean sprouts
- Fish sauce
For the broth:
Preheat the oven to broil. Halve the onion and cut the ginger lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the onions and ginger are charred, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Boil the beef shank in a large pot of water for 15 minutes. Drain, then run the meat and bones under water and use your fingers to remove any little bits of meat not attached.
Turn the Cuisinart 3-in-1 on to brown at 350 degrees. Add the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cloves, stirring occasionally until toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Change the setting to slow cook on low for 10 hours. Add the onions, ginger, beef shanks to the slow cooker and add 12 cups of water, about a 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot. Stir in the 1/4 cup fish sauce, salt, and sugar. Place the lid on top and allow the pho to do its thing.
Once cooked, strain the broth into large containers using a fine mesh sieve and cheese cloth.
For serving: Prepare the noodles per the package directions.
Clean out the slow cooker. Turn the setting to brown at 350 degrees. Once hot, begin to sear the thinly sliced beef, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Place the chilies, scallions and bean sprouts in small bowls so everyone can build their own pho. Ladle the broth into bowls and serve with Sriracha, hoisin and fish sauce on the side.
Disclosure: As a Cuisinart recipe blogger, they sent me their 3-in-1 Cook Central to use to create this recipe. All photos and opinions are my own.