Remember that paella pan you got for Christmas last year? The one that's been collecting dust in your cabinet since you used it that one time? We've got another dish to puts that pan to use, and it gives any paella a run for its money. Meet fideos, the Spanish pasta you've been missing your whole life.
Cooked in a similar fashion to paella, fideos is made with pieces of thin, broken pasta that get toasted in a pan then simmered in a seafood broth until the liquid evaporates completely and a crispy crust forms on the bottom (see the recipe). Think of it as the underrated cousin of paella.
Ever since Ken Oringer, co-chef and owner of Toro in NYC and Boston, introduced us to the dish during a Facebook Live shoot in our Test Kitchen, we can't stop talking about it.
"The first time I tasted fideos was in Barceloneta (an old fishing neighborhood in Barcelona)," Oringer tells us. "I couldn't believe something could have such intensity of flavor without having the fancy fanfare of paella. Just the shellfish broth, noodles, aioli and some fresh seafood. Kind of a Spanish version of bouillabaisse with noodles, which made it really comforting."
The best part of this dish is how adaptable it is in terms of toppings. Traditionally, you will find it packed with various seafoods and sausage, but the combos vary by region. One common element is garnishing with dollops of aioli on top, Oringer's favorite part. The hint of creaminess balances out the intense flavor of everything underneath it.
Instead of meat or seafood, Oringer's recipe focuses on the veggies. He packs spring vegetables like jumbo white asparagus, green almonds and morel mushrooms into the pasta, simmering everything in a combination of lobster and chicken stocks.
"Spring is every chef's favorite season to cook. We go through some long-ass winters, and you're always waiting for something green to pop into the markets, so we can start cooking something a little lighter, more refreshing and vibrant," Oringer explains.
The jumbo white asparagus adds crunch to the dish, the morels add meaty earthiness and the green almonds add a touch of verdant acidity. You get a little bit of everything in each bite—and the underlying flavors from the broth tie it all together, keeping you coming back for more. By packing all your toppings into this pasta, it's a main dish that can stand on its own sans sides. Still, Oringer suggests starting with a little jamón and chorizo to get the party started.
Just the Tips
To finish off your fideos education, we've rounded up Oringer's best tips to ensure success, whether you're seasoned at the task or making it for the first time.
1. Start with a heavy-duty paella pan. A super-thin paella pan will get hotter than you want, and you risk burning the pasta instead of forming a crisp, caramelized crust.
2. Precook some of your meats and garnishes. Fideos itself cooks quite quickly (about eight minutes), so make sure you have all of your mise en place ready and cooked ahead of time. That way you won't overcook the noodles.
3. Get creative. Oringer encourages you to make your own combos, whether it's using ramen broth, canned sardines or whatever you've got on hand. "Err on the side of flavor, not caution," he says.
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