Pressure Cooker Faux Pho

Friday really sucked for me. I’d been fighting the crud for about a week. My allergies kicking my ass majorly. Last week, on Halloween, I felt like my ears were going to explode. After dosing them up with garlic and neem oils, they got better by the next day, but I was still fighting the sniffling, sneezing, runny nose crap all week. Thursday, I felt the dreaded chest burn. The feeling you get after binge smoking 3 packs of cigarettes in one night. Like an elephant decided to cop a squat square in the middle of your chest. I knew Friday was going to suck. I woke up, full blown sick. As a dog.

After begging my sweet friend to let stay home from work today (Thanks bunches Michelle and I really would have come if you needed me too.), I tried to go back to bed and get some much needed rest, but I couldn’t. I doped myself up on a bunch of cold meds and set about doing a few things around the house that have been sorely neglected lately. Laundry, de-fleaing animals (WTF? It’s November! Why the hell are we still getting fleas?), and more laundry. My son was sleeping on the couch, having talked me into letting him ditch school that day by claiming an upset stomach. I felt like crap and when mama feels like crap, I don’t care what you do as long as you leave me the hell alone.

I really wanted soup and on any other day, a package of ramen would have sufficed. But just having come off a Whole 30 (and yes I did the whole, flipping 30 days), I really wasn’t up to ingesting a package of chemicals. Looking in the freezer, I found a package of chicken thighs and had an epiphany. What I really wanted was a big bowl of pho. The yummy super flavorful Vietnamese beef soup that has magical healing powers and cures whatever ails you. Problem was, pho literally takes all day to make and I didn’t have any beef bones. But I did have chicken. So I improvised and came up with this recipe. It’s based off of the beef pho recipe I use from Viet World Kitchen.

Pressure Cooker Faux Pho

For the Broth
4 inch piece of ginger
1 medium onion
2 pounds chicken (I used chicken thighs)
7 star anise
8 whole cloves
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
4 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of palm sugar or brown sugar

For the bowls
Chicken Skin Cracklin (recipe follow)
Pho noodles (or any rice noodle you can find at your local market, prepared according to the directions)
sliced scallions
cilantro
Thai basil
limes
fish sauce
chili sauce or siracha

Charring onion

The fist step to a good Pho is charring your onion and ginger. (Pretend there is a piece of ginger in this photo. I was out and didn’t feel like going to the store. I could tell in the flavor of the broth, but it was still pretty good.) If you don’t have a gas stove like I do, you can do this outside on a grill or hibachi. When they are fully charred and the onion starts to get soft, you know they are done. I just put them on a plate to the side to cool while I prepare everything else.

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Next, I skinned my chicken and added it to the pot of my pressure cooker. PS, this chicken was still frozen. I only thawed it out enough to separate the pieces and take the skins off. (I saved the skins to use to make cracklins for a garnish. More on that in a bit.)

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I then added the rest of my broth ingredients and enough water to fill to the “Max” line in my cooker. Remember the charred onion (and ginger)? After letting them cool and running them under cold water and removing the charred skin, I cut the onion in half and chucked it in. (For the ginger, after removing the skin, give it a good smash with the flat end of your knife and throw that in as well.)

I used the “stew” setting on my pressure cooker and set it for 50 minutes and set out to make my Chicken Skin Cracklins.

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These were the skins I cut off the chicken. Bare with me here, I know it’s not appetizing now but trust me, it’s going to turn into something amazing. I got the idea for these from Nom Nom Paleo’s Cracklin’ Chicken recipe. If you’ve never seen her site, she has some AMAZING recipes. I sprinkled these with a bit of salt and cut them in half because they were a little big.

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To my iron skillet (or any fry pan), I added a bit of oil. Use what you like, I used avocado oil because I had it. You’ll be frying so you want something that has a high flash point. I added my chicken and let them sit for about 5 minutes, until the bottom was crispy and golden. Turn and let the other side get nice and golden, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Note: These will pop, splatter and basically get chicken grease all over your stove and half of your kitchen.

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What you’re left with is something that tastes like the skin on fried chicken without all the calories from the batter part. So what did I do with them? I cut them up into pieces and used them as a garnish on the top of my soup.

After my 50 minutes were up, I turned off (unplugged) my cooker and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I let the pressure off and then opened it up to a wonderfully smelling soup broth.

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To my bowl, I added my noodles, some of the chicken I picked off the bone, cilantro, basil, a squeeze of lime juice, the cracklins, and little extra fish sauce to taste. Not only did it hit the spot, I could feel my sinuses clearing up and the congestion in my chest breaking up.

The cinnamon, clove, anise and ginger in this soup all have medicinal properties and are all used in various styles of Asian cuisine to cure illness. The next time you cook chicken soup for someone who is sick, consider adding one or all of these ingredients to help fight whatever is ailing the person. Enjoy!