Hovering over a warm bowl of soup, lapping up its warmth and inhaling the steamy aroma, is one of the best ways to take the chill out of a cold day. This is especially pleasurable if the soup smells so good that the aroma wafts out of your house and onto the street so even the neighbors know something good is cooking. Imagine a pot simmering with tender chunks of beef, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds. A soup like this is hearty, nourishing and guaranteed to make the neighbors jealous.
You could actually call this soup faux pho, since it’s not quite the real thing but is inspired by the Vietnamese soup, pho. This soup is a little less brothy and little meatier than real pho and makes the cooking process simpler by calling for fewer ingredients. Some of the ingredients, however, might still seem unusual for soup. Cloves, fennel seeds and cinnamon aren’t typically thrown into a soup pot, but the subtle flavor and amazing aroma they add sets this recipe apart from other beef soups and stews. The delicately flavored broth, combined with tender shreds of beef, thinly sliced mushrooms and ribbons of Swiss chard, is the kind of goodness that warms you right to the core.
The broth does takes some time to make, but it couldn’t be easier. Throw beef short ribs into a pot with water, add just a few other ingredients along the way, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. That’s it. Like most soups, the flavor in this one becomes even richer overnight, so consider making it a day ahead. Garnish if you like with slices of jalapeño pepper or fresh basil.
Enjoy a bowl of Aromatic Beef Soup with Mushrooms and Chard after a long day, but don’t forget that soup isn’t only for dinner. Warm some up for an energizing breakfast or fill a thermos for lunch. Your body will thank you for it!
Place short ribs in a pot and add water to cover. Turn up the heat and let the water boil vigorously for 5 minutes. (This cleans the bones a little so the broth isn’t so cloudy.) Drain the water from the pot.
Transfer the ribs to a large, clean pot and bring 4 1/2 quarts of water to a boil with the meat.
While the water is coming to a boil, cut the ginger in half lengthwise and smash it up a little. Peel the onion and cut it in half.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and set the onion and ginger in the pan, cut side down. Let them cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, 3-5 minutes.
Add the charred onion and ginger to the soup pot. Simmer over medium heat for 1 hour. Skim the surface several times to remove any foam.
After the broth has simmered for 1 hour, place the cloves and fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat and toast briefly, 2-3 minutes. Tie the spices, along with the cinnamon stick, up in a little bit of cloth or cheesecloth. Add the bag of spices to the broth.
Simmer for 1 1/2 more hours. Up to this point, the broth will taste quite watery and the meat will seem tough – don’t worry, after 2 1/2 total hours of simmering the broth will have flavor and the meat will be tender.
Use tongs to remove the onion, ginger and spice bag from the pot. Then, keep the broth simmering, but remove all the beef and place on a cutting board.
The meat should slide right off the bone. Slice/shred the meat as thinly as possible (otherwise, large chunks will be chewy).
Salt the meat to taste then add back to the broth. Salt the broth to taste.
Add the mushrooms. Let simmer a few minutes then turn off the heat and add the Swiss chard right before serving.
You can leave the fat on the surface of the broth, or if you’d like to remove some, refrigerate the soup until the fat hardens on the surface then scoop it out.