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.

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Consommé de pintade avec ses quenelles et vermicelles Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

Guinea Hen consommé with dumplings and vermicelli.
Guinea Hen consommé with dumplings and vermicelli.

A romantic era virtuoso said that “anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart and can not make a good soup.”  Based on this soup, any allegations of Scrabbulous sleight of hand or cheatery should be illegitimate and unfounded.

Guinea hens carcasses and bones were gently cajoled for 5 hours or so in water with minimal mirepoix over the warmth of one hundred attentive mothers’ hands; just enough heat to coax the proteins and aromatic poultry properties into the broth while keeping it as clear as possible.  The meat from 2 of the 4 drumsticks were ground with the a light carrot/onion/celery triptych and added to egg whites which were broken up by the addition of salt and vinegar to produce the clarifying raft.  4oz of spicy tomato purée, chopped rosemary and the strained stock were brought to a late summer’s temperature,  the raft was whisked in and left to do its thing under a whisper of a flame.

In the mean time, the thigh meat was ground smooth with lemon zest, lavender, salt, an egg white and splash of sherry vinegar for the quenelle forcemeat.  Spaghetti was wrapped in a towel and broken into 1” segments over the countertop’s edge then toasted in the oven until chestnut brown, a manipulation which gives the pasta a slightly nutty flavor. The remaining 2 drumsticks were poached in salted water.  Julienned onion, diced carrot and celery were blanched in the same water, the quenelles poached as well and ultimately used to boil the vermicelli.  Such flavor layering and procedure is a modest monument to the efficient use of water and cookware.

The consommé was strained through a few ladles of the cooked raft in a coffee filter.  The vegetable garnish, quenelles, picked drumstick meat and vermicelli were heated together with the clarified broth.

Soup to nuts evaluation: The consommé’s spicy notes from the tomato purée were particularly enjoyable, giving the broth an added dimension.  The lemon zest lent proper and distinctive acidity to the rich broth and quenelles.  The pasta provided an essential starchy element and alternative texture.  The vegetable garnish gave the dish sweetness, another texture and further sustenance.  The consommé was perfectly clear but once the garnishes were added some of the residual fat from the drumsticks and quenelles probably coated some of the vegetables and vermicelli and rose to the surface of the consommé during it photography.  Camera doesn’t have a soup setting.