Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What the Pho?

Special Pho Noodle Soup, Rice Fusion Cuisine, Salt Lake City, UT

What is Pho? First, I want make sure you all know the correct pronunciation. It is not "foo", or "foh". It is fuh, as in the F-bomb. Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup that comes in a variety of flavors.

Pho is prepared by boiling beef bones on high for 10 minutes, draining and rinsing the foamy water, then fill a large stock pot with water, add the beef bones, various spices, and slowly simmer for 6-8 hours. Then cook rice noodles, place in a Olympic size bowl, then place thinly sliced raw meat on the noodles, add cilantro and other garnishes, then spoon the hot broth over the noodles, cooking the meat.

A proper Pho should come to your table with medium rare meat. If it has already cooked to well done, it sat in the kitchen for 30 seconds too long. To eat Pho, place the bean sprouts in the bowl, squeeze the lime juice in and drop the lime rind in the bowl. The big leafy stick that is on the plate is fresh anise. This is what they make black licorice out of, but don't let that get you down. Anise has a good flavor when added to Pho. I like my Pho with Sriracha (rooster brand) sauce and hoisin sauce, or "brown sauce". The Sriracha gives it a kick, the hoisin, a savory sweet nuance of flavor. I also like adding chili garlic paste if available. Some restaurants use a cheap cut of beef for Pho and that is ok, but make sure it comes to your table still medium rare. Well done and it will taste like dried pot roast. I enjoy scooping out noodles with my chopsticks, slurping them up, and alternating with dips into the broth with the spoon.

Pho is one of my favorite foods, and if you haven't tried it yet, go grab some friends and find a "hole in the wall" Vietnamese restaurant. Many places have the word "Pho" in their name, and if they do, they probably specialize in it. These small family owned restaurants are some of the best. Sound off in the comments-- what do you like about Pho?

Back Porch Gourmet | Live Right. Eat Well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Night to Remember: Market Street Broiler

Friday night my wife and I went out to eat at Market Street Broiler, 260 S 1300 E Salt Lake City. The likes of which I am not affluent enough to sustain a long term relationship with, but we had a gift card. I don't think the English lexicon, or any language has a word powerful enough to describe the flavors we experienced. Knowing this opportunity comes once in a great Bluepoint oyster moon, I decided to create a menu that would enable me to taste as many flavors as possible.

Course #1. Raw oysters.
Understand first that I've never eaten raw shellfish before. And my upbringing was heavily influenced by my sweet mother that invited us to always try new things. I decided to try both Bluepoint oysters (Chesapeake Bay) and Kumamoto oysters (California). Having never eaten them, I tried them purist style-- without any accoutrements. Kumamoto was first. My first bite was a bit too salty (I didn't drain the seawater) but then rendered into a a creamy, buttery flavor that was not too chewy and didn't feel slimy. It was soft and like butter. Cleansing my palette, it was time for the Bluepoint. Learning my lesson, I ditched the seawater and tasted a lightly salty, creamy texture, very savory with a hint of buttery kick. I fell in love. Literally, as I am writing this, drool is running down my chin anticipating my next oyster hit. I think next time, I'm only going to lightly top them with a hint of lemon juice. I tried the vinegar and horseradish, and avoided the cocktail sauce-- I might as well have put ketchup on them. Must. Have. Oysters.

Course #2. Clam Chowder
With the server lightly topping my soup with cracked black pepper, this creamy soup really delivered a knock out to my taste buds. Lightly salty, but only from the clams themselves, the flavor of the chewy (but not in a bad way) clams complements the new potatoes and thick creamy base. Its simplicity was perfect, a hearty soup with just enough clams and potatoes to round it out. I should have gotten a take home jar.

Course #3. Surf &; Turf
A New York prime strip (6 oz) and half an Australian lobster tail. I like my steak medium rare, and the server didn't ask about sauce, but it really didn't need anything. It cut like butter and was juicy and tender. Being the best steak I've ever (and may ever) had, was lightly seasoned with just salt and pepper (and therefore perfect). When I saw half a lobster tail on the menu, I thought I'd be eating small food, and I don't know what those Aussies are feeding their lobsters, but it was quite a lot of meat. It appeared to be steamed, and the meat separated from the exoskeleton well. Dressed with simply melted butter, the light, almost popcorn like meat melted in my mouth. Usually, when you get a good entree, the sides leave something to be desired. Not so. The surf & turf was served with a mountain of onion straws and buttered buttered green beans. These beans were perfect! Stabbing them in the middle, they slid into your mouth and were not too crunchy or too soft. It's hard to describe, but it was delicious! I really liked the onions straws, probably because their garlicky corn based coating reminded me of Funion chips. That's not a bad thing. I almost ate them all.

We didn't leave much room for dessert, but decided to take some back to my folks to thank them for watching our kids. Dad got a raspberry almond torte, and Mom got a key lime pie. They looked amazing.

I highly recommend any SLC local to Market Street. It's a bit pricey, but reasonable for the quality of the food. How often can you have lobster in Utah that was swimming in Australia yesterday?

Back Porch Gourmet | Live Right. Eat Well.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Salad - Apple Jicama Coleslaw

Knowing that I had to make good on my "weird vegetable challenge", I did a little more research on the 'Tube and came up with this coleslaw recipe. Adapted from this video, I modded it a bit by not adding as much hot sauce, and adding cilantro to the dressing. Personally, I don't like coleslaw, but it's probably the soupy, wet cabbage that you get at a certain chicken restaurant chain, and I really liked the crisp vegetables. The apple and jicama added a sweet flavor as well that replaced the need for added sugar. I guess the challenge was a success after all-- I tried and liked something I didn't like before, and I learned to cook with a new food, which I love!

20 minutes
8+ Servings


  • 1/2 large red cabbage, julienned
  • 2 fuji or gala apples, julienned
  • 1/2 jicama, julienned
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce, original flavor

Julienne vegetables and apples and place in a large salad tossing bowl. Add dressing ingredients to a food process and process until liquefied and cilantro is in small chunks. Dressing should be a light green color. Toss vegetables with dressing and let rest 5 minutes. Retoss and serve immediately.

5 Stars
Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Barbecue - Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

Wow. Talk about a busy day. I had decided I was going to smoke a pork roast, bake sourdough rolls, slow cook Boston baked beans in the dutch oven and squeeze in a few errands. As is true of all good things in life, the best things are worth the wait. Tonight's pulled pork was no exception. Missla and I had invited over our friends and I wanted to create a meal to impress, so I figured bread that took 2 weeks to prepare, and a meal that takes 8 hours of cooking would fit the bill. Well, my rolls ended up being sourdough cookies, and they weren't sour at all. So instead, we grabbed some dinner rolls at the last minute and it all worked out great. Next time, I'll leave the baking up to the trained masters at my local bakery. The pork was very tender and didn't need much sauce, but the recipe below is pretty good, and we also used some leftover Alabama barbecue sauce from the pork chops earlier. I actually liked it a lot on the pulled pork. It gave a nice savory flavor to the meat and the zing from the apple cider vinegar was a nice complement.


Low heat
Indirect cooking
6 hours
8 Servings

  • Boston butt pork roast, untrimmed
  • Chipotle seasoning rub (commercial)
  • Apple juice (for the drip pan)
Rub the meat with the seasoning rub until well coated. Set up a kettle grill for indirect heating by placing a foil roasting pan (drip pan) in the center of the grill bottom and add apple juice until half full. Add hot coals to the sides of the drip pan and add soaked hickory wood chips. Replace the grill grate and add the meat above the drip pan. Smoke for 6 hours, replacing charcoal and wood chips often. Remove meat from grill and let rest. Pull meat apart with forks and serve with your favorite sauce.

Mustard Sauce
  • 1 part mustard
  • 1 part dill pickle juice
  • Cholula hot sauce to taste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Mix in a squeeze bottle and let age in the refrigerator 1-2 hours.

5 Stars
Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Tale of Two Dishes

Happy 250th Post!

"It was the best of meals, it was the worst of meals..."

A few weeks ago I put forth another cooking challenge. Naturally, I went to the store, picked my ingredients and made possibly what could be the worst meal in Back Porch Gourmet history. As it turns out, eggplant, jicama and rutabaga don't go well together. I'm not going to post the recipe, but I'll detail what happened.

In the store, I found some large eggplants and figured I'd make some ratatouille. Having never eaten eggplant or ratatouille, I knew it required tomato, but didn't check any other ingredients. So I added a bag of roma tomatoes to my basket. Then I saw the jicama and thought I'd make a salad to go with it or something. Again, I've never eaten jicama before, so it was all new to me. Finally, I grabbed a rutabaga, and figured I'd put it in my ratatouille. We got some onions, and some stew beef meat-- I thought it would be an interesting change to add meat to a traditional vegetarian dish.

That night I brought it all together. I seared the eggplant in my shallow Ikea Favorit grill pan, carmelized the onions, browned the beef, sauteed the vegetables, and reduced the tomatoes into a sauce. I put all the ingredients into a casserole and topped it with the tomato sauce and baked it for half an hour. It looked really good. Unfortunately, it tasted terrible. Some vegetables were still cold and uncooked, some were burned, and it didn't seem to go well together at all. We threw it all out.

Then last night, we were at the store for their case-lot sale, and they didn't have what we needed in stock, so we just got a raincheck. We were hungry, so naturally, we went to the butchers and got some pork loin end chops with the most amazing fat marbling I've ever seen. Then we went to produce and got some fresh green beans (my 2 year old daughter loves them more than candy) and hit the bakery and got a loaf of french bread.

Once we got home, I seasoned the pork with a pinch of kosher salt, ground black pepper and a dash of garlic salt. I seared them in the Ikea grill pan. While the pork was cooking, I made some Alabama barbecue sauce, a white mayonnaise based sauce that complements pork quite well. Once they were cooked to medium-rare, I basted them with Alabama barbecue sauce on both sides. Then I removed the chops from the pan, added some more olive oil, and skillet-grilled the green beans. Served with french bread on the side and a dash of olive oil in a little bowl, this was one of the best meals I've cooked in a long time.

So why the opposite effect for two meals, using the same pan separated by a week? For one, the eggplant disaster was amplified by the fact that I've never cooked with those vegetables before. I think a big part of it is that I didn't Keep It Simple Stupid! Lately I've been trying to one-up myself with each dish that I've lost track of the point of why I started this blog-- to have fun! I didn't have fun making and eating the eggplant disaster, but the chops were quite fun to make and eat! The eggplant disaster also tanked because I had no plan whatsoever, and didn't really care how it turned out. I've been making it too complicated, so I'm going to try to go back to basics. Without further ado, here is the recipe for the Alabama Barbecue Pork Chops:

Alabama Barbecue Pork Chops
Cast Iron Grill Pan
Medium Heat
45 minutes
4 Servings

  • 4 pork loin end chops
  • dash kosher salt
  • dash ground black pepper
  • dash garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup Alabama barbecue sauce
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans
Season pork chops with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Preheat grill pan and add dash olive oil. Sear on medium high heat in preheated grill pan. Turn and rotate to make nice sear marks until cooked to medium-rare. Baste both sides with Alabama barbecue sauce and cook for 5-7 more minutes per side. Remove chops from pan, add more olive oil and sear green beans long enough to make them soft but still crunchy. Serve with french bread.

5 Stars

Alabama Barbecue Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix ingredients together well until all lumps are removed. Store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!