Recently, I had the pleasure and great honor of meeting Aida Mollenkamp in person at a party for her new cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen, right here in Seattle. She was on her book tour, traveling through cities with her lovely book in tow. I have been a fan of Aida’s for some time now. . . back when she debuted on the Food Network in 2008. . I was watching along as she answered questions and cooked up a storm on Ask Aida. My daughter’s favorite episode is CHOCOLATE where Aida makes a no bake double chocolate tart, chocolate covered bananas and hot chocolate. Did I say chocolate?
In person, Aida is not only charming and beautiful, but she’s funny, open and easy to talk to. What I loved most about listening to her speak that night was the passion, devotion, and you could tell- every ounce of her being went into writing this cookbook- just oozing from her. This cookbook is truly the product of something she had been envisioning for a while and she poured her heart and soul into this book. She made sure she covered as much information/material she could in order to help equip us home cooks.
The “math” formula above is the first thing you see when you open this amazing cookbook. I absolutely love how she set this book up:
- The Set-Up (Know What to Buy, Mastering the Store: Section by Section, Store it Right, and Equip Yourself)
- The How-To (B.C. Before Cooking, Fundamental Prep Techniques, Fundamental Recipes)
- The Recipes (you’re going to have to buy the book for these!)
- The Riff (Mastering the Meal, Cooking from the Hip, The Aftermath)
The Set-up section of this book was extremely informative for me. Under Know What to Buy, Aida includes a Label Lingo glossary to help you understand all those words you now see on everything like Artisanal, GMOS, Grain-fed, Sustainable and many more. I’ll admit. this helped me a ton!
Under Mastering the Store: Section by Section, Aida tells you what not to buy, how to buy eggs and pick prime produce. Hell, there’s a Seasonality Chart in here! I love this! There’s a ton more but I’m not giving away anymore. You must buy this book for yourself. “Whether you’re a curious beginner or intermediate cook, this cookbook will help you conquer your kitchen. And then your cooking can become adventurous, creative and fun.” Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t this what we all want? I love that this cookbook can be for everyone.
Oh and there’s a Meatless Mains section! Great for those Meatless Mondays y’all. Word. Love this. I seriously will be cooking every single recipe in this section.
As I was flipping through this cookbook, my heart fluttered. . I came upon a recipe for Cheat Sheet Beef Pho (Faux Pho Bo). Ever since I had Pho for the first time, while in college, in Austin TX, I have always wanted to try to re-create this Vietnamese beef broth noodle soup at home myself. And you would have thought that my horrible Pho dining experiences in Austin would have deterred me. Not to gross anyone out but they didn’t always have the cleanest bean sprouts, cilantro, fresh mint garnishes available. And even when I said something ONE time, my server simply told me that it’s impossible to clean everything and to get everything off the leaves. Needless to say, I never returned to that particular Pho establishment. But again, just glad that experience didn’t stop me.
Aida’s Faux Pho Bo is wonderful. She calls this a shortcut version but this is the real deal yo. It’s pretty damn good. Her recipe is legit. And this is the first time I’ve cooked with star anise pieces. Loved it.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 yellow onions, halved
- One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, skinned and halved
- 4 quarts beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
- One 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise pieces (only put in 3)
- 3 whole cloves
- ⅓ cup fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1-2 cups water (optional; I added mine towards the end after I tasted the broth)
- One 12-ounce package flat rice noodles or brown rice noodles (I love Annie Chun's brown rice noodles. I have only found these at Whole Foods)
- 1 lb. flank steak, London broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thin as possible or cut into strips
- 2-3 Thai chiles, trimmed and thinly sliced (for heat)
- 2-3 handfuls of bean sprouts
- 1 bunch fresh Thai basil
- 1 bunch fresh mint or mint medley
- 1 white onion, sliced paper thin
- Sriracha sauce, for serving
- 2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add all the remaining broth ingredients and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until the broth is infused with flavors, at least 30 minutes, for a very light flavor, and up to 3 hours for a richer flavor. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, salt or sugar as needed. (Because you are going to add unsalted ingredients/garnish at the end, go ahead and make this broth a touch salty.) Strain the broth and set aside until ready to use.
- Return the broth to the pot and place over medium-high heat. When the broth simmers, add the meat. The meat will cook almost instantaneously because it is sliced thin or cut into thin strips. About 2-3 minutes later, add the brown rice noodles and cook according to package directions or until tender (should be about 4-5 minutes only).
- Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients on a serving platter. When ready to eat, fill the soup bowls with the noodles and the meat. Ladle broth into each bowl, serve and let guests garnish the pho to their liking.
- Alternatively, if you are able to get your meat sliced super thin, you can save it and at the end, fill the soup bowls with the noodles and top with the raw meat slices. Ladle the broth and serve.
To help celebrate the official release date of Aida’s cookbook- Wednesday, 10/24- we are having a week long Virtual Dinner Party! We’ve got some rather entertaining eaters, fellow foodie people, and food bloggers, pulling up a chair and bringing some delicious recipes, so visit their sites as they post recipes this week and enjoy!
Bev Cooks – Dixie Caviar – Edible Joy – Edible Living – Family Fresh Cooking – Girl Hunter – Heather Christo Cooks – Hip Foodie Mom – Hola Jalapeño – Ladles and Jellyspoons – Love & Lemons – Matt Bites – Shutterbean – Sprouted Kitchen –Southern Girls Kitchen – Stir and Scribble – Tartlet Sweets – The Culinary Life– Three Many Cooks – Turntable Kitchen – Two Peas and Their Pod – Vanilla Garlic – Weelicious – What’s Gaby Cooking – With Style & Grace
Where to Buy “Keys to the Kitchen”