Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Valencian Noodle Paella - Fideuà

One of the most amazing and unforgettable things I ate in Spain was the Noodle Paella - Fideua.  It is the most addictive dish on the planet.  The tiny vermicelli noodles form crispy edges that you cannot help but pick on, way after you are full, you keep going in for one more savory delicious bite after another and after a while you are licking a clean paella pan.  When we came back from Barcelona I wowed to re-create it and just got around to it now in the dead of winter.  And the timing couldn’t be better, from the gray, cold and dreary New Jersey I was immediately transported back to sunny Spain, where summer is almost internal and the cool breezes bring the scent of the sea.  For an evening I was transported to a different world.
And speaking of different worlds, I have been pretty obsessed with everything Downoton Abby these days.  I keep trying to imagine living a life so clearly split by a few flights of stairs and I keep thinking that I love Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, would kill for those copper pots, they cost a fortune now.  I also keep thinking how much work must have gone into feeding the lot upstairs, all those meals and teas, days in and out, 6 or 7 course meals crafted on a wood burning stove.  And to think that this was not just any mediocre “English” food, cooks to aristocracy of those days were expected to put out classical French fine dining treats.  All that,ith just a help of a kitchen maid…. that must be the secret, all I need are a couple of kitchen maids to order around, and I can turn out spectacular dinner parties at a drop of a hat! 

It is as unlikely for me to acquire a kitchen maid as it is for everyone to start calling me “Ladyship” so for now I will have to improvise.  I can always turn couple of kids into kitchen elves, they may not like cutting onions but at least I don’t have to pay them.  
I could not tell you why my mind kept drifting from early 20th century English aristocracy to remnant of sunny Spanish holiday, while I was cooking a Fideua but I was happy to be far, far from here…. At least in thought.
Valencian Noodle Paella - Fideuà
This recipe fits a 24inch paella pan, but can easily be scaled up or down depending on the size of your pan.
1 lb fresh chorizo (Mexican or Spanish, preferably homemade – see the recipe for my Mexican chorizo here).
1 large yellow or Spanish onion diced
8-10 cloves of garlic minced
2 small super-hot chilies or 1 jalapeno pepper diced very fine (seeds and ribs removed)
1 red bell pepper diced
2 cups of slow roasted cherry tomatoes
32 oz of chicken stock ( you should always have a little extra on hand)
6-8 cups of vermicelli pasts (see Note)
2 generous pinches of Saffron
Olive oil
1 tsp of smoked paprika
30 -40 small pasta clams (either Little Neck or Cockles)
1 cup green beans trimmed and cut to 1 inch long
Lemon wedges for serving
Note:  If you have a hard time finding vermicelli noodles you can use fine egg noodles, however you will need to pre-cook the noodles first and use less liquid in the recipe.
Wash the clams by filling a large pot with ice cold water and letting them take a bath for at least 10 minutes.  Than place them in a large colander and keep those under running cold water until ready to use or at least 20-30 minutes.  This will ensure that all the sand and grit is released and washed away.
Preheat your oven or the grill to 425F.   Preheat a very large skillet with deep edges or a paella pan and  heat some olive oil.  Sear all of the sausage breaking it up into small pieces until it is nice and crispy.  Lower the heat to med-low and sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and both peppers and sauté a few more minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes, stock and all spices and bring to a boil. 

Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until reduced by half.  Making sure that the vegetables and sausage are distributed evenly on the surface of a pan, stir in the noodles and spread them evenly covering the entire surface.  Bury the clams and green beans in the noodles, cover loosely with foil and transfer to a preheated oven.  Cook covered for 10-12 minutes than uncover and increase the temperature to 450F.  Cook until the clams are open and the edges form a crunchy crust.
Arrange lemon wedges around the paella pan and serve family style.  Everyone will be picking at the crunchy noodles on the edges and bottom long after they are done eating….

So now you know that I dream of kitchen maids and sunny Spain, what do you day dream about when you are cooking?

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