Pho (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune / March 20, 2013)

3 quarts beef stock

Fish sauce

1 package (16 ounces) dried wide rice noodles, cooked according to package directions

12 ounces beef top round, thinly sliced

1 bunch green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced, about 1 cup

Garnishes: Thai basil sprigs, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges, jalapenos thinly sliced into rings, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce

1 Place brisket in a large pot; add stock. Heat to a boil over high heat; lower to a vigorous simmer. Simmeruntil cooked through, 30-45 minutes. To check doneness, remove brisket from pot; poke with chopstick. Juices should run clear.

2 A few minutes before brisket is ready, prepare an ice water bath. When brisket is done, remove from pot; submerge in ice water. Reserve cooking liquid. When brisket is cool, remove from ice water. Pat dry; thinly slice against the grain. Set aside.

3 Return stock to a boil. Season with fish sauce, if needed. Arrange garnishes on a platter, sauces alongside. Divide cooked rice noodles evenly among large warmed soup bowls. Divide brisket slices among the bowls, then raw beef slices (they will cook lightly when stirred into the broth). Ladle boiling hot stock over top. Top with green onions; serve immediately with garnishes.

Preparing stock for pho can be a bit involved. Or at least, it might seem that way compared to other stocks you've made.

In San Francisco chef Charles Phan's book, "Vietnamese Home Cooking" (Ten Speed Press, $35), he writes that the stocks "are hardly the sexiest, most exciting recipes in the book, (but) they are some of the most important."

Consider the flavor sources, from the bones to the spices. His recipe calls for blanching (not roasting — because, as he explains, most Vietnamese kitchens don't have ovens) bones before returning to the pot for a long slow simmer (5 hours) because. He suggests making the stock one day, the soup another.

"Don't overwater it (the stock). You can always add more water to it," Phan says. "And pay attention to the fat ratio. Without the fat, you're not going to taste the broth."

So, he adds, "You need to skim the fat, but you need to make sure that you add some back into each bowl so you don't (lose flavor).

"A flavorful broth is absolutely key to the success of that recipe."

Beef stock

Adapted from Charles Phan's "Vietnamese Home Cooking." He suggests discarding the solids — which includes oxtails and bones with marrow — once the stock is cooked. If you are a fan of either, we suggest nibbling some of the meat off the oxtail bones or dig the marrow out. Or use the oxtail meat for another meal, shredded into a marinara or barbecue sauce. And the marrow? Eat as is or spread on toast.

Prep: 45 minutes

Cook: 6 hours

Makes: About 9 cups broth