Good Monday Morning! It's the start of the week again and here we are with questions from you and hopefully the answers you want to hear from me. I want to first thank all of you for an incredible week last week. It was a record again. I was so giddy to find my blog featured on the home page of Food Buzz. I guess we're never too old to feel (and act) like a kid! In all seriousness, I was honored to be featured and I owe it to all of you who visit and follow my blog. Without you, none of this would be possible. But, this is another week and we're off to the races again. Let's make it the best week yet. Now, on with your questions.

Do you have an authentic, or at least a semi-authentic recipe for a Vietnamese noodle bowl?
I am looking for something with Vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and maybe some grilled pork. I don’t know what to season the pork with (maybe Chinese 5 spice?). I can never get the Nuoc Mam to taste right. (Mike G., Thorton, CO.)

Mike, Nuoc Mam is usually made as a dipping sauce for certain deep fried rolls filled with vegetables and/or meat, but can be used for soup as well. I have not done a lot of Vietnamese dishes before; however,  I called my Vietnamese friend to get some suggestions on putting together a noodle bowl recipe using Nuoc Mam. The secret is in the proper combination of sugar, citrus, vinegar, and liquid. The larger the quantity of suger to the liquid, the thicker the sauce you will achieve, good for dipping. You can use water or vegetable broth, which I prefer. Vegetables and meat should be quickly cooked to retain flavor when liquid is added. I have emailed  you precise directions to follow regarding this recipe. I hope this will help.

Hi Nick, can you suggest some budget friendly red wines? (Alanna F., Phoenix, AZ.)

There are a couple of them that immediately come to mind, as both are wines that my mom purchases. La Vielle Ferme is a very nice inexpensive French wine. It comes from a small vinyard in the Burgundy region. I have purchased it at Trader Joe's in the past, at about $6.00 a bottle. The other is called St. Croix, again a wine from the Burgundy family. It runs about the same price and has been found at Trader Joe's as well and I believe at Kroger's stores. Since receiving your question, I have also run into a couple of nice South American reds that are very nice hidden gems. One is a 2007 Mendoza Aqua de Piedra Malbec at under $10 a bottle. It's just a simple, smooth red easy on the palate. The other is from Chile, a 2006  Reo Grande Cabernet for about $7 or $8 a bottle. As I find more, I will relay them to you.

Hi Nick. Do you know how to make pickled beets? I usually buy jarred beats, add some vinegar, salt, pepper, and sliced onions then let marinate for a week or so. (Brad, city/state not listed)

I must be honest with you, I have never pickled beets before. With that said, I have to ask if you are looking to pickle beets for canning or if you want to prepare pickled beets to be consumed within a few days. I have done some research and found 2 sites that cover both methods. The first is the actually pickling and canning of beets. If you plan on doing this, it is of utmost importance that it's done properly as the greatest danger is contracting botulism. The bacterium is not killed unless the canning is done via a closed pressure cooker. This site is located at http://www.pickyourown.org/pickledbeets.htm. This site is very detailed on what to do and directions should be followed precisely.

The other site is a recipe that I found that is easy to do, isn't as involved, and is particularly good if you plan on serving to guests in a reasonably short amount of time. I would marinate them longer than the 30 to 40 minutes they suggest. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight to allow flavors to penetrate deep in the tissue. This site is located at http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pickled_beets/. I hope this helps you, Brad.

Nick, when are you going to post your Lapin (rabbit) a la moutarde? I have fond memories of it. (Doug A., Portland, OR)

Rabbit is one of my favorite dishes and I remember your fondness of it both in Portland and Paris. I'm glad you brought this up to my attention; I will certainly make it a point to write an article on how to prepare it very soon.

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