Quick Grilled Beef Pho {Aspen, Colorado}

I refer to this Quick Grilled Beef Pho as my “faux pho”. It’s extremely flavorful and un-traditionally quick to put together!

Quick Grilled Beef Pho from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Quick Grilled Beef Pho. Everything about that recipe title doesn’t jive, I know. Traditional pho (pronounced “fuh“!), or Vietnamese soup, is anything but quick to make, with the broth and spices usually left to simmer for many hours or even days. And grilled beef? Cooking the beef before adding it to the soup is unheard of. But I’m loving this version and I’m ok with breaking a few rules in the name of deliciousness. So there!

Quick Grilled Beef Pho from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

I’ve been referring to this wonderful soup as my “faux pho”. Which is pretty fun to say out loud. (Try it!)

Quick Grilled Beef Pho from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

There is a wonderful little Vietnamese restaurant near us, where I enjoyed my first really good pho. If you’re ever in Woodbury, Minnesota, be sure to check out Thanh Truc. The restaurant is tucked into a strip mall and operated by the most wonderful folks. Their service is super quick, their food fresh and flavorful. It’s one of the restaurants my family frequents the most. Besides the pho, my favorite meal is the “C2”, or traditional Vietnamese salad with grilled pork and an egg roll. Absolutely do not skip the egg rolls. I’ve never tasted any better egg rolls than these.

Quick Grilled Beef Pho from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

When I was in Aspen this fall, a guest of the Beef Checkoff, I enjoyed two glorious bowls of beef pho for lunch one day at The Little Nell. Made by Executive Chef Matt Zubrod, all I could think was how I wished that it was easier to make pho at home.

Once I was back in Minnesota, my gears started turning, trying to figure out a way to accomplish this flavorful, comforting meal on a time budget. I started texting my friend Stephanie, who I just happened to spend a day with in Aspen (read on after the recipe for more on that), to bounce my own ideas off her incredible kitchen knowledge. And pretty soon I had a plan in motion for a quick grilled beef pho.

I’m just plain delighted with the results of this little excursion with “faux pho”. The broth is wonderfully fragrant and flavorful. Admittedly not to the higher level of a traditionally made pho, but oh-so-wonderful still. And the whole grilled beef bit…I love it. The char of the grill adds contrasting texture while also imparting extra flavor. I’m extra careful to not over-grill the beef, revealing its bright pink tenderness as it’s sliced against the grain.

For more on my trip to Aspen, Colorado with the Beef Checkoff – including a few shots of those glorious aspens in all their golden autumn glory – be sure to read on after the recipe!

Quick Grilled Beef Pho

Yield: serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 T. olive oil + a bit more for grilling the steak
  • 1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c. diced daikon radish (1/2" size)
  • 2 T. minced fresh ginger
  • 8 c. rich chicken broth or chicken bone broth
  • 1 T. fish sauce
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1  14-oz. package rice noodles (I like the flat noodles from Thai Kitchen with the label "stir fry rice noodles".)
  • 1 lb. top sirloin beef steak
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh lime wedges
  • fresh mint
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh Thai basil
  • bean sprouts
  • Sriracha
  • Hoisin sauce

Directions:

* Please note that this recipe includes a much speedier version for creating the spiced broth than a traditional pho recipe. Also, the beef is not traditionally grilled prior to adding it to the bowls of noodles. I just like the additional texture and flavor from the grilling, and did my own thing with this.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, toast star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, pepper corns, fennel seeds, and cardamom pod until toasty and very fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Transfer to a plate to cool. Then tie up spices in a piece of cheese cloth with kitchen twine or a spice bag (I like these) and set aside.

Return saucepan to medium heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add onion, daikon, and ginger, and sauté until onion has softened a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, spice packet, fish sauce, soy sauce, and honey. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with fish sauce and/or soy sauce (for saltiness) and honey (for sweetness), if needed.

While broth is simmering, cook rice noodles according to package directions, until tender but not mushy. Strain the noodles and run them under cool water to stop cooking. Add noodles to individual serving bowls. Or toss with just a bit of neutral-tasting oil to prevent sticking until ready to use.

While broth is simmering, grill the beef. Heat grill to high. Make sure grill grates are clean, and then oil them well. Cover both sides of steak lightly with a bit of olive oil, and then sprinkle fairly generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Once the grill grates are smoking hot, place your steak on. Then close the lid and don’t peek. For a 3/4'' thick, juicy medium-rare steak, grill for 2-1/2 minutes without peeking or moving the steak. Then flip and grill for another 2-1/2 minutes more on the second side without peeking or moving the steak. Increase grilling time for thicker steaks. Immediately remove steak from grill to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes to retain juices. Then cut steak against the grain into very thin slices.

To serve, add a few slices of grilled steak to individual bowls of noodles. Discard spice packet from broth. Strain broth if you like, or serve as-is with the bits of onion, daikon, and ginger. Ladle hot broth over the noodles and beef in individual bowls. Let everyone garnish their pho as desired with squeezes of fresh lime (my favorite!), fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and sauces.

Adapted from Stephanie Meyer's (freshtart.com) "Weeknight Paleo Pho" and Matt Zubrod's (Executive Chef at The Little Nell in Aspen, CO) "Beef Pho".

Quick Grilled Beef Pho from afarmgirlsdabbles.com . .


. Live Well 2016 with the Beef Checkoff in Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

This fall I was honored to join the Beef Checkoff in Aspen, Colorado for their Live Well 2016 event. Created especially for dietitians, fitness professionals, and bloggers, I found myself immersed in aspects of nutrition and health that I was both familiar with and astoundingly unfamiliar with. The variety of information that was shared ran the gamut, always interesting and promoting great conversations. Plus, who am I kidding? Aspen’s stunning backdrop was hard to beat. This was my first time in Colorado, and I found Aspen to be absolutely breathtaking.

The Little Nell in Aspen, CO - photo by andrewharper.com

(photo by andrewharper.com)

Our group stayed at The Little Nell. Nestled in at the base of Aspen Mountain, its setting was spectacular. And, wow, the hospitality. This hotel had a roomy but intimate feel with top notch service, obviously nodding to its Five-Star and Five-Diamond awards. I am so glad that I tacked on an extra night to allow time to hike Maroon Bells, a recommendation from my cousin Samina. Keep reading to the end for more on that excursion.

Live Well 2016 with the Beef Checkoff in Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

One of the highlights for me was listening to the keynote speaker, Olympic Skeleton Slider Noelle Pikus-Pace.

Noelle experienced a devastating injury during training that kept her from competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics. But with her powerful shared story of family, faith, and focus (“You always have a choice about how to react to your situation”), she overcame this obstacle, going on to win the title of World Champion skeleton slide by a large margin just one year later, plus 4th place in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Then in 2014, she won the silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Noelle and her life story are nothing short of inspiring.

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We gathered in the kitchen with Executive Chef Matt Zubrod (The Little Nell) to talk together about weekly family meal plans and how to build beef into our menus for great tasting meals that provide nutrition and a balanced plate.

In other conversations, we learned and talked together about:

  • the value of meal planning and how it can save you money and time in the long run, reduce food waste, and allow for more variety.
  • how an equal distribution of protein intake throughout the day (approximately 30 grams of protein at each meal) is important to preserve lean muscle mass for healthy aging.
  • inactivity and poor nutrition being critical threats to the natural process of aging.
  • how beef’s nutrients fuel energized, vibrant lifestyles. Beef contains key nutrients and high quality protein important at every stage of the lifecycle, from active, young parents to aging Boomers.
  • how new research suggests that pureed beef can be recommended as a complimentary first protein food for breastfed infants to not only promote healthy growth, but to also provide zinc and iron, which are key nutrients needed during this life stage.

Lynn Britt Cabin at Snowmass in Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

One morning we took a scenic drive up to Lynn Britt Cabin on Snowmass. Just look at that gold and blue view!

Live Well 2016 with the Beef Checkoff in Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

While at the cabin there were conversations with cattle ranching experts, quizzes on beef anatomy and beef cuts, and a sensory training of the different ranges of flavor and tenderness in beef (wet age vs. dry age, grass fed vs. grain fed, etc.), all followed up by a casually elegant lunch.

Hunter Creek Trail at Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

I loved how this event celebrated overall health and well-being, not only from the session topics, but also with planned group activities for optional hikes and yoga. This active time, in beautiful Colorado, helped to bring our days together in a much more meaningful way.

This is the Hunter Creek Trail that starts a short distance from downtown Aspen. The trail runs alongside Hunter Creek and features several bridges. It ascends fairly rapidly, increasing in elevation 700′ in the first mile.

Continental Divide at Independence Pass near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

And from here on out, I’m sharing a couple excursions that I did on my own. I always had in the back of my mind that if I could fit in a drive to Independence Pass and the Continental Divide, I’d go for it. And so lucky for me, it worked out.

The road through Independence Pass is narrow and curvy, and almost entirely accompanied by dizzying sheer drop-offs.

Continental Divide at Independence Pass near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

The Continental Divide jogs through the pass at an elevation of 12,095 feet, boasting the highest paved road crossing the Continental Divide in North America.

The cascades at Grottos Trail near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

I also took in a short, easy hike at Grottos Trail, located between Aspen and Independence Pass. If you’re looking for a hike that’s low on effort and high on features, this is a great one. There’s a wide, shallow stream at the trail head, crystal clear and serene. I walked up a bit to find ice caves, where curvy carved-out boulders look like works of art. Then I followed the sound of crashing water to the cascades. This area was magical, commanding my every bit of attention as I traced the water tumbling all the way back down to the stream below.

Hiking Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

I saved the best for last.

Maroon Bells.

With girlfriends.

My cousin Samina (on the left) was back in South Dakota this summer visiting family, when I had the chance to talk to her about my upcoming trip to Aspen. She lives a couple hours from Aspen and had just recently done the hike from Aspen to Crested Butte, via Maroon Bells. So she was excited to encourage me to add on an extra day if I could.

Stephanie is in the center, my friend from right here in Minnesota. She’s the one I mentioned earlier, who helped me accomplish the “quick” part of the pho recipe in a really tasty, easy way. Stephanie had been staying in Boulder during that time, and I took the chance that she’d drive over to Aspen. I texted her an invite to join me and Samina for a day of hiking.

And I was so happy when BOTH Samina and Stephanie joined me to hike Maroon Bells. It would not have been the same AWESOME experience without them!

Lunch break at Crater Lake, hiking Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

It didn’t take me long to figure out what high altitude felt like. Hiking at a moderate pace for a few hours had us stopping regularly to catch our breath and drink more water. When we reached Crater Lake, we stopped for a nice long lunch break. The sun was warm on our skin. It was an exceptionally glorious day, not a cloud in the brilliant blue sky.

The Maroon Bells in the background are a pair of fourteeners. With a little lesson in mountaineering talk from Samina, I learned that a fourteener is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. Colorado has the majority of fourteeners in the contiguous United States (53).

Hiking Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Samina was the best guide. She and her family have been living in Colorado for many years, where hiking has become one of her passions. Watching her, listening to her, I soon understood why her love for Colorado runs so deep.

Aspen forest, hiking Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Sometimes, when I need to feel peace, I close my eyes and imagine this scene. Gazing up into those aspen tree tops, I can see the millions of little heart-shaped leaves, golden and glistening in the sun. The breeze is tickling them, making the leaves shimmer like glitter. The sound is peaceful, entrancing, like tiny little rattles far off in the distance.

This, my friends, is how I will always remember Aspen.

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Thank you to the Beef Checkoff for inviting me to attend Live Well 2016. I was not required to write this post – I simply wanted to share about my experience. All opinions are my own. There is an affiliate link in this post.

Aspen, Colorado from afarmgirlsdabbles.com For more travel from a farmgirl’s dabbles, be sure to follow along on Pinterest!

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