Chicken Pho

~The first blog in a series of healthy recipes from Eating Well.~

2015-03-31 06.38.14

Chicken Pho, a classic Vietnamese soup, is a perfect recipe for a slow cooker. The chicken and seasonings of star anise, cloves and ginger simmer all day in the crock pot, welcoming you home with an alluring aroma. Serve with the essential garnishes for pho soup—fresh herbs, bean sprouts, chiles and lime—and let everyone top their own. Serve chile-garlic sauce for those (like me) who want more heat.

Hey what’s not to like? This easy, healthy meal is high in potassium, low in saturated fat, is heart healthy, high in calcium, and is gluten free. We found it flipping through a recent copy of Eating Well magazine. Since this was a weekday meal, we portioned out the seasonings and prepped the chicken the night before so that we could throw it all together in the crock pot before heading out the door for work in the morning.

A note to the wise — make sure you plug it in before you take of — Russ told me later that evening that he went to check on it after I left for work and before he headed out the door, and found that while I turned the knob to Low, I forgot to plug it in!! Thank goodness he looked, otherwise the whole thing would’ve been tossed out …

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (two 32-ounce boxes)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 10 whole star anise (see Tip)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds total), skin removed, trimmed
  • 6 ounces wide rice noodles (we only had access to thin rice noodles)
  • 6 cups chopped bok choy
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 fresh Thai chile or serrano, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

PREPARATION

  1. Combine broth, brown sugar, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, ginger and cinnamon stick in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken breasts, meat-side down. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours (or on Low for 8 hours).
  2. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Remove spices and discard. Add noodles and bok choy to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the bone and shred with two forks. When the noodles are tender, stir in the shredded chicken. Serve bowls of soup with bean sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro, sliced chile and lime wedges on the side so everyone can add their own toppings.

TIPS & NOTES

  • To prep ahead: Combine seasonings with broth; prep chicken; cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. | Equipment: 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (we used a 7-quart).
  • Tip: Add star anise, named for its star-shaped pods, to Asian-inspired dishes to lend distinctive licorice-like flavor. Look for it with other bulk spices in natural-foods stores, in Asian markets or online at penzeys.com.
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