When Cookie, my best friend and official taster, heard French Fridays with Dorie was cooking something Vietnamese, she sat up and started grilling me. She is Vietnamese, by the way. She was intrigued when I told her it was pho, which Cookie introduced to me after she and Cabbage had returned to Portland after two years in Vietnam. (There's a lot of pho restaurants in Portland.) She shrieked in horror when I broke the news that Dorie added coconut milk to it, and thus began the two week rant about coconut milk in pho. She told her mother, who was shocked and confused. Why would you put coconut milk in pho?
The next time Cookie came over she demanded to see Dorie's recipe. Coconut milk. Harumph. When she found out Dorie doesn't even call for making your own chicken broth and only called for chicken breasts, Cookie wailed. "But the dark meat is the best part! Whyyyyyyyyy?"
Then she took me to my nearest asian market (right around the corner, it turns out!) and pointed out her mother's favorite fish sauce. I also bought some rice noodles, limes, star anise, and cilantro. Then we went to Whole Foods for chicken. I like my meat to have been treated somewhat nicely before it died.
At this point Cookie threw up her hands and said, "I'm out," so I took her home before I started in on my faux pho. Cookie said she might want to taste the broth, just to see. But she wouldn't eat a whole bowl.
I gotta hand it to Dorie. She made this quick and easy. Not having to poach a chicken to make broth cuts down on your time--like A LOT--and being able to throw pretty much everything in the pot at once makes this really easy. I told Cookie, when she called me later to hear my results, that I made the soup, from first chop to in the bowl, in one hour. She was impressed. And skeptical.
This is truly faux pho. The coconut milk adds a richness that is instantly satisfying, but pushes the soup towards another favorite of mine, Thom Kha Gai. Which isn't bad.
(Also, I did make Gerard's Mustard Tart, I just didn't blog about it.)