Sopa de fideos for virtue and good health
That´s it. It´s over. Last of the roses, roses, flung riotously before the throng, check. Empty champagne bottles dutifully recycled, check. Dry and hard remains of roscón binned after (brief) contemplation of making crumbs and freezing, check. Sliver of smoked salmon eaten for breakfast, check. Lights packed away til next year, check.
All done, in fact. So begins the month of virtue. Unlike the other month of virtue, this has less to do with swimwear, and more with a certain hankering for the basic, simple, healthy food we imagine our grandmothers may have made.
The kitchen calls. It´s cold outside, and dark, and you want to eat. But you don´t really want to bake, and the idea of heavy food is even a little bit unsettling. So of course, you decide to make a big pot of stock, the perfect thing to make because it´s undemmanding, warming, filling, and light. And it will make you fell so pleased with yourself.
There seem to be a lot of rules about stock. Some are true for everyone, some are true for top of the line restaurateurs, and some are just written down to scare people off. Which is silly, because there´s nothing easier than filling your biggest pot with chicken bones, a carrot, an unpeeled onion, the green bits of a couple of leeks, parsley stalks, and a stick of celery, plus a bay leaf and some peppercorns, maybe some thyme, covering with water, and waiting for it to boil away a couple of hours.
I´ve always ignored instructions to clear consommés with egg whites, and to not cover the pan. My sieve often touches the strained liquid, and I´ve never lined it with cloth. I´ve been out of peppercorns or bay leaves, and it hasn´t been a big drama. Over time, I´ve decided that I don´t like garlic in the stock, or cloves, but maybe you do. Who cares?
I do think some things are essential, though.
One: Skimming is important. The thick grey froth is gross, full of impurities, and quite fun to take out with a espumadera ( it´s not only for frying eggs, you know). It´s as satisfying as waxing your legs, minus the pain.
Two: add a couple of pieces of serrano ham bone. They give the finished product a definitely velvety oomph. The only trouble is that they are full of fat, which leads us to
Three: always make this the day before you want to use it. Anything else is cheating yourself of the best end product. Let it cool before straining it, put it in the fridge, and have a second satisfaction-no pain removal of unsightly stuff. If you eat it on the day, no matter how careful you are, you´ll end up with thick round fat bubbles on the surface.
The quivery, jellified beauty will be easy to ladle into freezer bags. I make bags of one and a half cups for a single serving, 3 for two, and 4 for soup or risotto. If seeing them all lined up doesn´t make you feel smug, I don´t know what will.
It´s wonderful on its own with a drop of dry sherry, but even better as sopa de fideos.
Its very simple, but you can´t get away with cubes or Bovril for this one. Just heat up your broth, and simmer very thin fideos ( a tight-fisted handful per person, no more ) until they are just al dente. Don´t, for the love of all that´s holy, let them become mushy and cloud the consommé. Turn the heat off, put a few fresh mint leaves in, and leave them in the pot for a minute before serving.
Have that for dinner, with an orange, for a couple of days, and you´ll be forgetting your seasonal excesses in no time.