The most magical part of making bun bo Hue happens around hour three when the beef, pork, and lemongrass broth is transformed into the familiar fiery orange soup. A sizzling mixture of vegetable oil, scallions, fish sauce, and paprika imparts the broth with its characteristically bright hue and rich, umami flavor. A heavy dose of fermented shrimp paste, along with a touch of sugar and salt, add the finishing touches to the broth.
After procuring two pounds of apricots and setting aside an evening without commitments, I set out to make my first lazy man’s jam. First, I pulled apart the fruit using my bare hands, leaving the skins on and removing the pits, then I made a simple syrup and macerated half the fruit in it. More fruit, a whole vanilla bean, and a squeeze of lemon juice later, I had a dangerously delicious apricot jam on my hands. I couldn’t believe how awesomely simple it all was.
Comprised of just five ingredients—fish sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, and shallots—this easy marinade treats pork to a sweet, salty, and wholly umami bath. Soaked overnight, then grilled over hot flames, the ribs’ exterior caramelizes beautifully, while the innards remain tender and flavorful.
As far as cookie recipes go, this one is somewhat high-maintenance, although not as fussy as Jacque Torres’ “Perfect” Chocolate Chip Cookie. “Birthday Cake Crumbs” create an additional step, but every extra minute is worth it once you taste the crumbs’ sandy texture and salty-sweet profile. There’s also an hour-long pause required in between mixing and baking the dough. Other than those two blips, these Confetti Cookies bake up like a dream—crisp on the outside and cuddly on the inside, a technicolor treat.
This recipe comes from Aunt Phuong, the premier nuoc cham artist in my family. While garlic, chilies, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce are all standard ingredients, her use of Coco Rico soda in place of water takes the vinaigrette to the next level. Though mostly mild in flavor, the coconut-tinged soda brings a crisp sweetness that water doesn’t possess. The soda’s carbonation fades just as soon as it’s combined with the sugar, so no worries about bubbly nuoc cham. Stir, stir, stir…
This recipe comes from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill. Chef Stitt attributes the recipe to Miss Verba, an associate of his at Highlands Bar and Grill, who as far as he is concerned makes the best pimiento cheese ever. Whether served as a dip or a spread, the pimiento cheese hits all the right notes that a good appetizer ought to—creamy, sweet, spicy, and salty.
French-style Hot Chocolate
The Christmas elixir—for soul chill, fat deprivation, or ordinary happiness deficit. This recipe comes from Eat, Drink, and be Chinaberry, a cookbook first published in 1996 that’s a staple in The Astronomer’s mother’s collection. What’s really special about this hot chocolate is its light and frothy texture and incredibly rich profile—the result of melted bittersweet chocolate swimming in a sea of whipped cream.
While The Astronomer desires nothing more than a hunk of grilled lemongrass pork atop his bún (vermicelli rice noodles), I’ve got a soft spot for stir-fried steak, a dinnertime staple at my house growing up. Pork is almost always my protein of choice, but beef gets a slight edge here for its intrinsic juiciness, ease of preparation, and sweet onion companions. The way the meat’s drippings mingle with the marinade and the nước chấm (Vietnamese dipping sauce) gets me every time.
Using recipes from Elise and Kirbie as my guide, I successfully transformed fresh pears into candied leather in celebration of The Astronomer and my wedding anniversary. The only hurdle that I encountered was my oven, which heats intensely and unevenly. This meant that I had to check on the leather rather often to make sure that it hadn’t turned the fruit into chips or, worse yet, burnt it to a crisp!
Not everyone is lucky enough to live a short drive away from Good Girl Dinette, and Chef Diep Tran’s pot pie is much too delicious to be reserved for locals only. Thankfully, those who reside outside the Southland can reproduce the dish at home with the help of this spot-on recipe that first appeared in the New York Times article “Based on an Old Family Recipe.” There’s something about the way the perfectly flaky buttery crust melds with the spice-laden stew that satisfies and surprises with each bite.
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