Jack is Cooking: Vietnamese Pho with Beef Shanks

Well Hello Internet!
I recently got a nice slow cooker, so i’ve been experimenting with it quite a bit.  One of the first things i made in it was some awesome beef broth, which i used to make a Vietnamese pho with.
Pho is basically a soup, except you can put whatever you want in it.  the most important thing to have is a delicious broth to begin with, and it has to be super hot!  Then you put some noodles in a bowl, along with any other ingredients you want – meat, vegetables, peppers, sauces, and/or oils before pouring the piping hot broth over.  The broth cooks all the veggies and you have one delicious meal.
Here’s the ingredients for my beef shank broth:
This is good for about 4 bowls of soup
5 cups of water
1 large beef shank or 2 small beef shanks (about 1.5 lbs bone included).
1 onion (sliced)
1 inch fresh ginger (sliced)
1/2 tspn fennel seed
2 or 3 cloves
1 cardamom pod
5 cups water
1/2 Tbspn Better than Boullion (Beef) {this stuff is great.  much better than the cubes}
1 Tbspn fish sauce
salt to taste
1/2 tspn Sugar
Theres just a few steps to take care of before throwing it all into the slow cooker.  This could also be done on a stove in a heavy pot or dutch oven.
The first thing to do is to cut the meat off of the bones, and cut into bite size pieces.  Set a pot of water to boil, and add the bones and the pieces of meat.  Cook just for 2 or 3 minutes. This is just to blanch the bones and the meat, a lot of scum will come out and settle on the top of the water.  Scoop this away and discard.  This prevents the broth from becoming cloudy.
While the bones and meat are in the water, place the onion and ginger in the oven on broil just until they get a little brown. (about 3-4 minutes)
If you are adventurous enough to have 3 things going, take a small skillet and toast all the spices over a medium heat.  After toasting take a piece of cheese cloth, or spice bag and tie all the spices up in a neat bundle.  This also makes the broth wonderfully flavorful, but prevents the broth from clouding also.
Remove the bones and the meat from the water and discard the water.  Place the meat and bones in your slow cooker, or in a heavy cast stove pot.  Throw in the 5 cups of water, the spice packet, the roasted onions and ginger,  the fish sauce, beef bouillon, salt, and sugar, set the slow cooker on low and let it cook for about 6 hours.   If you are doing it on the stove, set the stove to the lowest it can go, and cook for at least 2 or 3 hours – replenishing some water if you need to.
After 6 hours take the broth and strain it into a pot over the stove.  Discard the bones and spice packet, and set aside the meat.
Bring the strained broth to a rolling boil and get ready your bowls of other ingredients.
The particular pho that i made, i did so with meat, onions, and ginger from the shanks, rice noodles, bokchoy, cabbage, and pickled jalapeños.
Place everything nicely in the bowl, and then pour the piping hot broth over.  The broth will instantly cook all the veggies.  Garnish with some sesame seeds, crushed red pepper, and a little sesame oil.

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