A really awsome fideuá
I´ve always wanted to learn how to do a proper paella. But it seems to be a pretty huge undertaking. So many factors to take into account, so much fiddling around, so many arguments as to what constitutes a "true" paella...And there´s always the tricky question of the "punto del arroz", that exact nirvana of the rice grain, achieved only with extreme precision and an almost otherwordly flair. Or so they say.
All these tiresome rice pundits do agree on one thing, though ; fideuá is a sort of paella for dummies. The preparation is similar, but there´s none of that stress about perfection. It can be dry, or soupy, and pasta is pretty foolproof to cook. It doesn´t even have to be al dente, so you have a few minutes grace.
One day I´ll try my hand at rice, but yesterday I took my first steps, and produced fideuá. And, I am happy to say, it was excellent. It was delicious. It took less than half an hour to cook, and was bursting with flavour from all the things that were inside.
I´ll give you the recipe, and hope I´m not being irritating with the imprecision, but that´s the beauty of it. You can be pretty slapdash and it will still be good. This is how it goes.
I had some good fish stock in the freezer, about 1 1/2 cups, and the especial fideuá noodles in the cupboard. They´re small, curved and hollow in the middle, but you can do it with normal thickish noodles. Onions, garlic, saffon, pimentón and tomatoes I had. I then bought a courgette, one small squid, and a handful of mussels.
It can be done with any other vegetables, shellfish, or even chicken. Your call. The quantities here are for two.
You start the sofrito with onion and garlic in a frying pan, or similar wide low pan.
While they soften, you grate the tomatoes. Dice the courgette pretty small. By this time the onions will be pretty floppy. Add a pinch of saffron strands and a third of a teaspoon of pimentón. Mix it for no more than thirty seconds, and add the tomato. It´s important that you do this, otherwise the pimentón will burn and taste really horrible.
Let that reduce. It will take around ten minutes. Cut up the squid into small chunks. Open the mussels. I do this in the microwave, but use your preferred method. Add the liquid to the fish stock, and reserve the mussels.
When the sofrito is done ,add the squid and the noodles. I used two good handfuls, about 150 gr. Move them around the pan for a minute, and then add the stock. It has to cover the noodles by about a finger.
Let it boil away for 12 minutes or so. You can spend the time doodling the bowl of mussels, or clearing up the kitchen a little, or making a salad.
Check after 10 minutes. By that time, the pasta will have absorbed most of the liquid, and the starch from the noodles will have made the stock all silky and risotto-ish. When you think the noodles are done, turn the fire off, scoop into bowls, and add the mussels.
Mine out came more soupy than not, but when we came back for seconds the pasta had soaked up everything, and it was quite dry. I think trial and error is in order if I ever want a crusty socarrat bottom, but for now, I´m very happy with this.