We have a butcher. Our butcher sells all sorts of meat things, and I have dreams of going in there and chatting, Alton Brown style, about different cuts of meat and learning what's best for what and how to cook it.
So far I've never been to the butcher, Clint likes to walk over at lunchtime on nice days, so he takes care of all our meat needs.
But one day, Clint mentioned our butcher has "soup bones" (beef shanks).
Do you know what you can do with soup bones? Make broth! This happened during the height of my chicken soup making days this winter, so I got pretty excited. Unfortunately, the soup bones appear to be one of the most popular items our butcher sells and he only gets them on Tuesdays, so it took us a while to actually get some for ourselves. Once we did, I took advantage of a recipe I'd found online recently.
Pho tai (vietname beef noodle soup), adapted from koko cooks.
Beef Stock (best made a day ahead, so the fat can solidify and be easily removed):
2 lbs of beef shinbones (a combination of bones and oxtails would also have been good)
10 cups water
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot, bring to a boil and simmer for 1hr, uncovered. Remove from heat and when cool enough (around 2 hours for me), refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the thick layer of solidied fat and discard. (it was quite a thick layer of fat)
Strain the beef stock and discard solid parts (i.e. bones, spices, shallots, bits of fat). Because this is simmered uncovered, much of the liquid boils off. I was left with about 6 cups of broth.
¼ c fish sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz thin rice noodles, softened in hot water, cooked according to the package directions, and drained
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 jalepeno pepper, thinly sliced into rings
½ lb boneless beef sirloin, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into very thin slices
2 c bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
¼ c minced scallions, green part only
¼ c minced fresh cilantro
1 c Thai basil leaves, or sweet basil leaves
To make the soup, combine the beef broth with 3T fish sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to the box's directions (generally, boil water, pour over rice noodles and let soften for a few minutes- rice noodles don't need to be cooked, like pasta). Thinly slice the beef, and add to the broth. Cook for 2-3min, until beef is cooked through (which is why slicing thinly is important, it helps it cook faster).
Divide rice noodles among 4 bowls, add about bean sprouts (which I cooked in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drained, because I've heard bad things about bean sprouts), chopped scallions, cilantro and thai or sweet basil (which I omitted, basil's really expensive lately!). Divide beef in broth among the bowls, and serve with lime wedges and jalapeno on the side.
What I like best about this recipe is that even though it's super easy (really- dump some stuff in a pot, cook it for a while, chill it, slice some stuff and put things in a soup bowl), it's rather delicious, and if you're used to American food, it seems pretty exotic. I'm not lucky enough to live in an area where there's $3 bowls of pho on every corner, so I either have to drive a while to find a restaurant (where pho is rather more than $3) or make it myself. And now making it myself is kind of the obvious choice.
And I now have an additional 4 lbs of beef bones in my freezer, waiting.