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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Chicken Pho – the Good, the Bad, the Gristly

The world of pho eaters can probably be divided between those who love it no-holds-barred funky (bring on the tendon, the tripe, what have you) and those who prefer not to find any funny stuff in their bowls.

If you’re looking for chicken pho without the ick factor, russkar gives major props to Pho Thanh, where the broth is solidly good and there’s nothing but boneless, skinless white meat in addition to the noodles.

On the other end of the spectrum is Pho Bolsa, where a bowl of pho ga means deeply flavored broth, chicken meat, guts, and maybe even ovaries. Not for the faint of heart, but it’s fantastic, says kingkong5.

Pho Thanh [Little Saigon]
13055 Euclid St., Garden Grove

Pho Bolsa Restaurant [Little Saigon]
14092 Magnolia St., Westminster

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Pho’ Thanh- Perfect Chicken Pho’

Delicata Squash

Delicata is sweeter than most varieties of winter squash, and denser in texture. It’s difficult to peel, but the peel is edible. You can use it in recipes as you would butternut squash; or cut it in half, seed it, and roast it with 1 Tbsp. each butter and brown sugar in each half, then scoop and eat.

wyf slices it into rings, tosses with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts on a sheet pan at about 375F until it’s tender. pitu does the same, but adds fried sage leaves and shallots.

oakjoan loves this treatment for delicata squash: combine coarsely ground whole spices (she likes fennel, cumin, coriander, and black peppercorns), crumbled oregano, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, and salt, and mix with olive oil. Brush on quartered squash and bake at 400F for about 15 minutes; test for doneness continue baking if necessary.

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Delicata squash

Fire Up the Hot Pot

Hot Pot City is sort of a do-it-yourself place–each table has a cast iron griddle at its center, with a hot pot in the middle. You serve yourself ingredients from the refrigerated case in the back of the restaurant, and you can cook up hot pot soup and sizzling meat at the same time. You’re charged per plate for the ingredients: $2-5.

Vegetables, tofu, and shrimp are amazingly fresh, but the beef, lamb, and venison get a bit dry from standing uncovered in the refrigerator. The meats are also trimmed of their fat, so it’s a good thing that butter for cooking is complimentary. Steamed rice also comes free.

Dinner for two runs about $30.

Hot Pot City [Little Saigon]
15606 Brookhurst St. Suite E, Westminster

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Hot Pot City mini-review

Peanut Milk

“Peanut milk” has recently emerged as a possible item of consumption in many of our communities. What’s it like?

ipsedixit was “not really blown away,” which is a much more diplomatic response than that of other chowhounds. Pei says “it tastes like the water after you boil a lot of shelled peanuts for hours and hours, but grittier.”

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Anyone ever try PEANUT MILK?

Decadent Country Ham Spread

Country ham, a bit of bourbon, and a lot of butter. That’s all there is in this rich spread pikawicca calls addictive. A southern specialty, country ham can be hard to find outside the south except via mail order, but coconutz notes that many Chinese markets carry Smithfield country ham. It’s often possible to buy slices of country ham, cooked or uncooked, so you don’t have to commit to a whole one.

If your ham is already cooked, skip the initial part of the recipe, courtesy of Candy:

12 oz. raw cured country ham
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. good bourbon
1/4 cup water
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350F. Soak ham in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain ham and place in baking dish; add 1/4 cup bourbon, water, and some pepper, and bake for 30 minutes. Discard liquid and set ham aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Remove any fat and chop the ham roughly; put in a food processor and grind. Add butter and remaining bourbon, and process until well combined. Pack into containers and refrigerate; let warm slightly before serving. Serve with warm toast points, biscuits, or crackers.

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Country Ham Spread, make this!

Themed Dinner Parties

Chowhounds like to feed their friends at dinner parties, and what’s cooler than hosting a dinner party with a theme? Okay, it’s not that cool, but it could be fun.

cackalackie suggests a Bollywood theme–serve curries, dosas, and pani poori, play Bollywood movie soundtracks, and provide bindis and henna tattoos for guests to wear.

atheorist proposes Russian zakuski as a theme–the Russian appetizer course, including blini and ice-cold vodka. Make the buckwheat pancakes and serve smoked fish, pickles, sour cream, and honey.

ML8000 likes the idea of serving school cafeteria food. Or, says chowser, how about “Balls Around the World”–ball-shaped food from every culture?

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Theme Dinner Party Ideas?

Battle Pie Crust

It takes a lot of hubris to declare that you’ve found the recipe for “the perfect crust.” Of course, The New York Times, being the paper of record and all, has enough cred to do it.

In a piece sure to be almost as popular as last week’s Bittman bread fest, Melissa Clark bakes a few dozen pie crusts to render (ha!) a verdict on the best fat to use for shattering flakiness combined with melting tenderness.

Butter, shortening, suet, lard, duck fat, peanut butter, olive oil, and more. Her choice? Leaf lard, the fat that surrounds a hog’s kidneys. But it isn’t easy to prepare:

Step one: pick out any bloody bits and sinews, chop the fat into pieces, and render it slowly in a double boiler for eight hours.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the L.A. Times also thinks it has the ultimate crust. Betty Hallock visits City Bakery’s Maury Rubin to get the skinny on his rich tart dough. Like the aforementioned bread recipe, the “miracle crust from the master” promises to take away the guesswork and simplify a complicated process:

You don’t need a food processor or even a mixer. You’re not scrutinizing your dough, hoping to see what looks like snowy peas or barley or the Infant Jesus of Prague. You don’t have to worry about overworking the dough because even if you knead it and slap it and press into it to patch up some torn spots, it turns out great.

Which crust will win the day? We’ll just have to bake them both! Or maybe this one. And ooh, the legendary cider pie sounds like it should go on my list as well. So many pies, so little time.

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