Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mexican Pasta?

I am happy to report that I am feeling better, and was actually hungry for lunch! Because I've been under the weather, I really wanted to make myself something comforting and from my childhood, specifically, "Sopa de Fideos!" Sopa de Fideos is a type of "Sopa Seca," meaning dry soup, made with fideo pasta and very popular in Texas. Fideo is a type of Mexican pasta much like vermicelli, which can be substituted easily. In Mexico, this dish is typically served as a second course following a soup course, then a meat course, then concluded with dessert. However, this is a favorite lunch or snack for kids and adults alike.

This recipe reminds me of a passage I read from Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, which writes, "Because so few cookbooks were published in Spain - John C. Super maintains that there were probably no more than eight cookbooks published in Spain in the first 350 years after the printing press was invented - the transmission of cooking knowledge from person to person was vitally important for the households, palaces, and ecclesiastical institutions of colonial Mexico. Diego Granado's cookbook, Libro del arte de cocina, published in 1614, was one of the first cookbooks used in Mexican kitchens. This book contained a large number of Italian-inspired recipes and thus Italian food influenced Mexican cooking and dining far more than French food did."

This delicious homey dish pays homage to Italian ingredients and illustrates how two food cultures based on very similar ingredients can have such contrasting results. These differences are the consequence of very different culinary techniques, and of course, the use of local herbs and spices. For instance, in Sopa de Fideos, the pasta is fried in oil like a pilaf, then cooked in broth until "dry," as opposed to simply boiling the pasta, as they would in Italy. In addition, with the omission of basil, for instance, cilantro proudly takes over. And finally, as there are endless recipes for Sopa de Fideos, some calling for the addition of diced potatoes, shredded meat, chorizo, and/or chiles, feel free to try it and then make it your own. To truly appreciate this comforting classic, I insist that you garnish it with crema (creme fraiche would be a good substitute), avocado slices, cotija cheese (parmesan would be a substitute), and a sprinkle of cilantro!


Sopa de Fideos

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons canola oil
5 ounces fideo (like La Moderna) or vermicelli (if using vermicelli, break the strands in thirds)
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock (If I don't have home-made, I use "Better Than Bouillon" Reduced Sodium Chicken Base)
4 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste

For garnish: Mexican crema, avocado slices, crumbled cotija cheese, chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add the fideo or vermicelli and stir to coat the pasta with the oil.


Continue to stir and turn over the pasta until medium brown, being careful not to let it burn. Add the tomato, onion, and garlic, and continue to stir for a couple minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.


Pour in the stock and tomato sauce. Stir in the salt, cumin, and chili powder.


Cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.


Serve warm, garnished with crema, avocado, cotija, and cilantro.

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