I am not going to lie, it is difficult to find Spanish food (food from Spain) here in the U.S. If you live in a major city, it might be easier. It never seems to be a problem to find a good Italian, Japanese, or Greek restaurant. But Spanish…
I am always searching for Spanish restaurants and markets here, and am always excited when I find one. For a long time, I have been craving a dish called fideuá (pronounced fidday-wah.) This is made with very specific ingredients. It looked like it would be impossible to find the correct pasta, called fideos. I didn’t give up, and eventually I found them! (Online of course.) But hey! It’s worth it…
I guess that by now some of you are wondering “what is she talking about? Fideos? Fideuá…? What is it?” So here we go! Let’s take a trip to the Valencia and Catalonia regions of Spain.
According to a popular tale, fideuá was created in Valencia for a Spanish fisherman in 1915. Joan Batiste Pascual was the cook on a fishing boat. He was from the town of Safor (in the region of Gandia), and was known as Zabalo. Normally he would cook Spanish rice dishes like paella, since rice was easy to store, and seafood was readily at hand on a fishing boat. The captain of the boat was a true rice lover and he would always eat more than his fair share of paella (the other sailors never got a full ration of rice). In order to stop the skipper from being so greedy, Zabalo one day decided to use pasta instead of the traditional rice. It worked. The captain didn’t eat as much of the pasta as he did the rice, and the rest of the crew had more to eat! The dish became more popular and spread along all of the seafood restaurants along the coast.
Nowadays, it is a very popular dish and you can find it anywhere in Spain, including Catalonia, where it is very popular. Usually, it is made with cuttlefish, shrimp and langoustines. Since it is difficult to find cuttlefish and langoustines ingredients, you can easily substitute shrimp and squid. Like I did today! This dish is similar to paella marina (seafood paella). You cook it like you would cook paella, in a paella pan. The key ingredient is the pasta, called fideos. These are short lengths of dry pasta, about an inch long. You don’t boil the noodles first, like you would with regular pasta. You brown them in olive oil and garlic and then simmer it in fish broth, also similar to paella. It is seasoned with tomatoes and onions, and contains delicious pieces of seafood. When it’s done, you add some aioli sauce.
Sounds good, right? Let’s see how easy is this recipe is…
Fideuà for 2-4 servings
– 1/2 Ib (250g) fideos (If you don’t want to buy the fideos, use angel hair and cut it into small pieces, about 1 inch long).
– 1 medium onion
– 1/2 medium red bell pepper
– 1 big tomato (if you use canned whole tomatoes, use 4 tomatoes)
– 2 cloves garlic, plus 1 clove for the aioli sauce
– 4 cups (30 ounces) fish stock
– 15 medium shrimp (about 5 per person) peel and devein
– 15 medium squid pieces (tubes and tentacles) (4 to 5 per person)
– olive oil
– vegetable oil
1) Grate the onion and cook it in a separate pan on low-medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt.
2) Grate the pepper. Once the onion starts to brown, add the pepper and the tomatoes. Mash the mixture with a masher. Stir and season again with salt. Cook until brown and set it aside.
3) In a large pot, preheat the fish stock. If you don’t use your own, buy the highest quality store-bought stock you can find.
4) Drizzle on some olive oil into a paella pan and cook the squid on medium heat. When the squid is cooked, about 3 minutes, set it aside on a separate plate. Using the same paella pan, cook the shrimp until they turn pink and curly.
(If there is any liquid from cooking the squid and shrimp, save it and pour it into the fish stock. The more fishy the better!)
5) Add the squid and the onion-tomato mixture back into the pan with the shrimp. Stir until well mixed. It should take about 1 minute. Put it on a separate plate.
6) Drizzle the paella pan with some olive oil, add 2 cloves of garlic and cook on medium heat. Stir a little bit, and add the fideos. Stir the fideos with the garlic until the fideos turn very brown. Be careful not to burn them! This will take about 3 minutes. This step is very important. If the fideos are not brown, the fideuá will not be as good.
3- They are very brown!
7) Remove the 2 cloves of garlic and discard. The garlic in this step is just to add flavor to the oil and pan. Next, add the squid, shrimp and onion-tomato mixture into the pan with the fideos.
8) On low heat, add between 3.5 – 4 cups of fish broth. Shake the pan. DON’T use any spatulas or spoons to stir it. Just shake the pan with the pan handle. Like you would occasionally stir, occasionally shake the pan to distribute the stock and mix the ingredients.
9) After about 15-20′ the fideuá should start looking pretty dry. All the noodles should be standing up. If they are not, you can put the pan in the oven for 6-10 minutes at 375F.
10) The aioli. This should be made ahead of time. You can use your own recipe, or follow mine. In a food processor, blend the garlic, egg yolk, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Then, while the food processor is still blending, slowly (very slow!) add the rest of the 1/2 cup of vegetable or canola oil. Mix until it has a nice thick consistency.
11) Serve wam and BON PROFIT!