Lamb Neck Pho
This recipe takes some time, but the active time is minimal and you can prepare the meal in pieces to eventually serve a number of people very quickly. I usually have bone stock around, which allows me to cut the time involved, and I actually braised the lamb neck the evening before we ate this, while we were binge-watching Stranger Things. The next day, I threw together these cozy bowls of pho in less than 20 minutes.
at least 1 lb. assorted lamb bones
1/8 - 1/4 C. fish sauce (try to get the kind without tons of additives. Fish and salt is all it takes)
For Braised Lamb Neck:
1 whole lamb neck, bone-in
2 T. coconut oil
2 medium onions
2 birds eye hot peppers
4 garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
2 t. whole fennel seed
2 t. whole coriander
a few whole cloves
a half palmful of sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 T. brown sugar
1 bottle sake or wine
Wide rice noodles
1 whole cucumber peeled and julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned or cut into ribbons
fresh scallions, finely chopped
red pepper flake
For the stock: Roast the bones in a oven set to 325F until deeply browned and fragrant, around 35-40 minutes. Cool. Place in a large stockpot and fill with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, skim, then turn the pot down to a simmer and allow it to cook all day, adding more cold water as the level diminishes. I usually simmer stock all day and overnight, and end up topping off the pot twice before I'm finished. When finished, strain the stock and set aside to cool.
For the lamb neck: Remove the thick, elastic tendon that runs down the middle of the neck with a sharp boning knife. You can save it for the stock pot, or discard it. Heat the oven to 300F In a large dutch oven, melt some coconut oil on high heat and fry the onion, garlic and pepper. In a separate cast iron pan, toast all the spices over medium-low heat (not including the salt, pepper and sugar). When the onions are not quite charred, add the lamb neck. Brown it quickly, turning it to brown all sides. Uncork the sake or wine and pour it over the contents of the pot, allowing it to boil until you no longer smell the strong alcohol scent. Turn off the stove top, add the spices, salt and sugar to the pot, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to distribute. Cover the dutch oven and place it into the oven. Braise it, covered, for 3-4 hours, until the meat is falling off of the bone and is flaky and tender. Pull the meat into strings, discard the bone, and strain the liquid. Compost the spices and aromatics, save the liquid for later.
Assemble the Pho: Boil the rice noodles for 6-8 minutes until tender, then strain and run cold water over them. Heat 2 quarts of the stock over medium heat and add the fish sauce plus a generous palmful of salt. In serving bowls, place 1/2 C.-3/4 C. of the cooked noodles, and a serving of the pulled meat. Ladle the stock over to fill the bowl as desired, then arrange the cucumber, sprout, scallion, bean sprout, and carrot into the bowl. Garnish with a few cilantro tips and a lime wedge, and serve with red pepper flake and hot sauce.