Pot-au-Phở Saturday, Mar 7 2015 

Núi Vừa ý Phở

Beached noodles.

Beached noodles.

Mount Pleasant Pot-au-Phở

Western tweed scholars and irritating “foodie” epicures alike maintain that the etymology of Phở can be traced to the iconic, non-partisan, French dirty-water beef “pot-au-feu“.  Low cost cartilaginous cuts of beef are slowly left to simmer on the corner of the stove for days on end, renewed with water, meat and vegetables as needed; a carnivorous proxy to a bread baker’s starter.  The French, who have a sweet spot for beef and colonizing swampy parts of the world from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries, introduced pot-au-feu to the Vietnamese, in addition to goldfish, flip-flops (which they previously introduced to the Egyptian trailer park community in the 15th century BC), novelty prophylactics and Jerry Lewis.

East meets northwest DC.

East meets northwest DC.

The Vietnamese took a liking to the soup and French soldiers are alleged to have been heard crying “feu!” (fire) whilst pointing to the steaming bowls of broth and wood fire below -both allegories to the syphilitic burning in their sweaty, mischievous linen trousers.  Scorching cases of crotch-rot sped up France’s exit from Indochina but they left the “feu” behind, both as a nourishing broth and cootie contaminated prostitutes and toilet seats, the later of which would be America’s downfall in both the Vietnam war and failure to popularize the STD sounding “Beenee Weenee” in the Eastern hemisphere.

Dr. Reinhold.  Draft dodger and Beenee Weenee glutton.

Dr. Reinhold. Draft dodger and Beenee Weenee enthusiast.

As snow fell on Nation’s capital this week, short-ribs were simmering (after a proper blanching) with warm spices and vegetable aromatics.  Lemongrass should have been in there, but I forgot to buy it and couldn’t be bothered to ride through the snow again. Forgot the fuckin’ lime too.  Lemons would have to suffice.  A spoonful of fermented chili paste, some of that squid brand fish sauce, some vinegar, vegetables glazed tender in olive oil (should have used the beef fat) with lemon zest and segments.  Then some bánh phở (rice noodles), broccoli, the picked short-rib meat, scallions and “ăn ngon miệng nhé!”

Fancy chopsticks in a woven koozie.

Fancy chopsticks in a woven koozie.

A couple slurps of the broth and I thought “it’s not fantastic and it’s not like some homeless grandparents crapped in a bowl. It’s Alright.”  Needed more of the beef fat for richness but the noodles were absolutely delicious, though they sucked up most of the broth.  If you are going to drink a case of beer before something important to do and gym-mat-filling  inspired injera is not readily available, eat a pack of rice noodles and you’ll be sober as a judge by lunchtime. A 2.0 version will be assembled shortly, with beef neck, the missing lemongrass, pretzels, marshmallow Fluff, herbs and more liquid.

Édition Spéciale Marché Gris: Viandes et Provisions Vaut la Peine. Monday, Jul 18 2011 

Special Grey Market Vendor Edition:

Worthwhile Meats & Provisions

Worth mine and your while.

Under the storefront nom de plume of Worthwhile Meats & Provisions, wares within this repertoire were placed for sale at the 3rd DC Grey Market in an effort to showcase the confident breadth of basement kitchen derring-do as well as gauge public demand and tastes.  Products were smoked wild king and sockeye salmon (18 ounces of each), boudin  blanc d’Avranches (24 links), leafy greens sausage (36 links), pâté en croûte (48 ounce pâté) and cauliflower agnolotti (150 pieces).  Epicurean bric-a-brac was not for sale, though complimentary tomatoes and pickles were well received along with the products.

You should see my lemonade stand.

All were sold within 3 hours with the help of a lovely assistant’s handsome signage and personable hawking talent; an indispensable asset to any would be vendor. Sales covered all shopping costs and fees, leaving just less than $40 to compensate 2 weeks worth of late night work.  Portion sizes were respectable (3, 4, 10 and 15 ounces for salmon, pâté, boudin and sausage) and modestly priced at $3, $4, $7, $7 respectively as well as $1 an ounce for the agnolotti which helped to ensure that the items would not be prohibitively expensive.

The better kind of “sell out”.

The Grey Market provided an excellent opportunity and barometer of sorts for budding entrepreneurs to test the viability of they hobbies, passions, visions, etc…despite the somewhat remote location, awkward  placement of vendor tents and little to no advertising (contrary to the 1st and 2nd markets) –the last 2 liabilities resting squarely on the frumpy, strung-out shoulders of the untrustworthy promoter whose aggrandizing self titled culinary rank (the hallmark of kitchen insecurity) was hopelessly dubious and confirmed by the tasteless choice of chili pepper motif shorts.  Exhaustive intertron research has failed to produce any real meat & potatoes credentials relating to the alleged 2 decades of success, much less any evidence of culinary bona fides.

WorthWhile Meats & Provisions can be reached at worthwhilemeats@gmail.com

ETA:  The Washington Post food editor deemed my wares and ambitions worthy of front page ink.  Still, there remain skeptics whose pretzel logic concerning food safety illuminates the hopeless depths of their ignorance with respect to food safety and the effects of inspections/regulations.  For those, consider the FDA recall list from FDA-regulated products.  Then consider how many home kitchens are inspected and whether such cynics have ever been sickened from eating a meal prepared from an unlicensed kitchen in the form of breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, dinner party, birthday party, Thanksgiving, Christmas, bbq, picnic, etc…and whether or not they were concerned about food borne illnesses.  The paranoid fantasy is hyperbolic and unfounded.  It suggests that a price tag is enough to contaminate.

While my personal home kitchen is not officially licensed, it is sanitary, empty for 12-16 hours a day and does not have more than 2 hands or feet in it at any time.  15 years culinary experience, a formality food handler’s license, common sense and the desire to replicate a savory, worthwhile product trumps the hallow assurance that industrial facilities or restaurants are guaranteed to prevent illness by virtue of  occasional health inspections, biannual at best for latter that do not immediately require changes for 100% compliance with food safety codes.

Ravioles du Barry Sunday, Oct 25 2009 

Cauliflower Agnolotti
Cauliflower Agnolotti

Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry (and illegitimate daughter of Anne Bécu, possibly the daughter of a Friar) was Louis XV’s favorite piece of non-dyn/monastic ass.  Twas during his reign (1715-1774) that cauliflower grew in popularity and when the comtesse’s blonde noggin was lopped off in 1793, it probably looked like a bastard head of cauliflower falling into the basket, albeit likely flush with blood.  Whatever the case, du Barry would later signify a cauliflower garnish or base as with her eponymous veloutés and such.

Cauliflower was the primary ingredient, proving the filling, garnish and sauce.  Florets  were cut and reserved for the garnish.  The rest, including the stems were blanched until tender and puréed while hot with a minimal amount of milk to help make it smooth.  The filling consisted of a roux (roughly 20% the weight of the cauliflower purée) with minced onions cooked in the butter until tender, a chopped dried chili, Reggiano cheese and a trickle of lemon juice, essentially a traditional Mornay sauce accompaniment.  A few ounces of the initial purée were reserved for the sauce which was later augmented and thinned out with warm milk, grated Reggiano cheese, nutmeg, salt and a scant spoonful of the filling.

The egg based pasta dough is made with water, egg yolks, olive oil, salt and durum flour in precisely measured quantities so that it sticks to itself does not need further moisture for the flaps to seal shut, though not so much can be said for Alex Trebek’s mother.  Once the filling was deposited the dough was folded over, sealed shut, punched out and an indentation is made behind it to give the angolotti’s characteristic priest’s hat shape, or wrestler’s traumatic auricular hematoma.  Garnishing the ravioli were florets cooked tender in olive oil with lemon zest, sliced garlic, capers, a few lemon segments and blanched curly endive leaves.

Cauliflower Mornay filling is applied/
Cauliflower Mornay filling is applied.

Pasta is folded over.
Pasta is folded over.

Dough is pinched around the filling and punched out with a ring mold.
Dough is pinched around the filling and punched out with a ring mold.

The proceedure is repeated.
The proceedure is repeated.

Attention.  Passion.  Organization.  Uniformity.
Attention. Passion. Organization. Uniformity.

Post pasta posturing: The ravioli were pleasantly rich and the Mornay style filling complimented the cauliflower without overpowering it, notably the sweetness of the butter and saltiness of the Reggiano, though an older Reggiano would have been more pronounced and nutty, perhaps demanding hazelnuts or almonds for continuity.  The florets could have benefited from more caramelization to contrast from the blanched cauliflower and bring out more of the natural sugars.  The bitterness of the curly endive, saltiness of the capers and acidity of the lemon all worked to provide the necessary elements of delectable harmony or whatever.  The sauce coated the former elements with a hearty, albeit light dressing and allowed the ravioli to function as a vehicle for the other ingredients rather than merely hot noodles on a brisk fall evening (even if peak cauliflower season is in the spring).


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