A couple of weeks ago, our friend Lily texted us about something so awesome I don’t know if words can do it justice. She said that her parents would be in town soon, and that they were going to make authentic phở at The Ramen Lab in conjunction with Ichicoro Ramen. Then she asked if I wanted to come eat with a few close friends and family. Uh, duh. I’d had phở before, but I knew that this was going to be the real deal, especially after all the stories I’ve heard from Lily about all the time and effort that goes into her mom’s phở. I brought Donny along, of course, because I thought he’d appreciate it just as much. After standing around, waiting, watching her parents put the finishing touches on everything, smelling the broth simmering away and gazing at the fresh herbs laid out on the table, it was finally time to eat. I stood eagerly as Lily’s dad poured broth into each bowl, watching the bright red beef cook as soon as the liquid hit it. Lily’s dad served each of us, then taught us how to put different herbs and condiments into the soup, along with her mom’s amazing pickled vegetables. I can’t quite explain how good this phở is, so I’m sorry. It was incredible. The depth of flavor, the richness and the downright deliciousness is unmatched. I’m ruined for phở for the rest of my life, even in New York. Our friends, Alex and Anh, who also came with us, were equally blown away, and Anh is also Vietnamese. Lily’s mom even gave me a giant beef bone, filled with fatty marrow, which Kramer and I happily split and ate until our stomaches were more full than I can remember them being. I’m always going to remember this meal as one of the best in my life, and I’m so thankful to Lily and her parents for sharing it with us. This bowl of phở, more than anything, really showed me what it means to take food seriously, to cook with love and to be proud of what you’ve made. Lily’s mom knows her phở is the best, and that confidence comes across as soon as you take a bite.
In a total 180, I figured I’d share a recipe with you that, unlike Lily’s mom’s phở, takes almost no time at all to make. I try to pack lunch for Kramer and myself each day, mostly because I am cheap and hate spending $12 on a sandwich, but also because I try to be somewhat healthy in my day-to-day eating so I can go to town on a big plate of fried chicken or a sloppy egg sandwich on the weekends. I got a surprise box from my friends at Sir Kensington’s a month or so ago, filled with a few new products, but the one that stuck out to me was this dijonnaise. I love mayonnaise and I’m not afraid to share that fact about myself – mayo is delicious and if you don’t think so, you must have had some kind of bad mayo-related experience as a child to turn you away from one of my favorite condiments. And I feel bad for you. Dijonnaise is just dijon mustard and mayonnaise combined, and you can make it yourself at home by doing just that. I marinated chicken thighs in this mixture, along with some olive oil and lemon juice, then threw them under the broiler until they were just slightly charred in parts. If I had a grill, I’d prefer to cook them on that, but alas, I live in Williamsburg with no access to a (legal) outdoor space to do so. These thighs go perfectly on top of or alongside an arugula salad or maybe with some equally charred broccoli. Throw this into your recipe rotation and let go of any mayo hangups. It’s good to try new things!
Lily overseeing the kitchen (and waiting for her food).
Lily’s dad, hard at work.
I got there a little early and hung around while they had family meal.
Lily’s parents brought a lot of their ingredients straight from Houston.
Finally – it was my turn to eat!
The broth was other-worldly. It simmered all day, until we ate it around 9pm.
And sadly, before you knew it, you’d finished your food. Hopefully Lily’s mom can come back soon and feed us again.
Moving onto a much less time consuming meal: dijonnaise chicken.
All you have to do it mix together your marinade ingredients, add in the chicken, then cook – super simple.
Kramer and I ate this for lunch for a few days during the work week.
Grill or bake, then serve with a little extra sea salt and lemon zest on top.
- 8-10 chicken thighs (I used boneless, but bone in work well, too)
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- ¼ cup olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon (reserve the zest for garnishing)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Whisk together your mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place your chicken thighs in a shallow dish or a sealable bag, and pour the marinade over the top. Cover or seal, then place the chicken in the fridge to marinate. The longer the better, obviously - I marinated mine overnight, but at least 1 hour should do the trick.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, if you live in the city and don't have a grill, like me (grilling these would be my preference). Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack in the sheet, if you have one. Spray your rack and/or pan with non-stick spray, then place your chicken thighs on top. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes, or so, until beginning to blacken a bit. You can turn your broiler on to finish them off, if you like, to imitate the flavor you'd get from a grill.
- Place the chicken on a large plate, garnish with some lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and serve. These also make a great addition to any salad for a week's worth of lunches.