Simple Art of Cooking: Two Ways with Cappellini

Fideos are simply a Spanish version of thin pasta such as cappellini or angel hair that is toasted dry then cooked in liquid to finish. The toasted pasta has a wonderfully nutty flavor, something I remember from childhood. While my mother didn’t cook any of the recipes below I recall how much I loved fideos however they were prepared. The recipes below are inspired creations; the chicken is an adaptation of a recipe from a Peruvian friend and the shellfish recipe—well, perhaps it’s from outer space, a message I needed to make sense of!

 

Shrimp and Fideos, Spanish Style

Fideos is simply a method for cooking thin pasta such as cappellini or angel hair toasted dry then cooked in a liquid.

Serves 4

1 pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned (reserve shells for broth)

2 bay leaves

Shrimp broth from cooking shells with bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine

2 to 3 cups chicken broth, homemade or low sodium

1/2 pound cappellini (thin pasta) for fideos

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 red onion chopped

2 to 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced or 1 cup canned tomatoes, sans liquid

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika

Coarsely chopped parsley for garnish

1. Shell and clean shrimp of waste matter. Rinse and dry with paper towels and set aside. Rinse shells, place in a saucepan with water to cover and add bay leaves, white wine and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then adjust heat and simmer until shells turn pink, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let liquid steep until cool then drain, discarding shells, and set aside.

2. Break the cappellini into thirds. Heat two teaspoons oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet; add the cappellini and brown in a skillet until golden brown, tossing to brown evenly. Remove from skillet and set aside.

3. In the same skillet the fideos browned in, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and put in the chopped onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped garlic and Spanish paprika, and sauté for 40 to 50 seconds, stirring until the mixture is a dark fond at the bottom of the skillet. Stir toasted fideos into the mixture then add steeped broth to cover the fideos: if more liquid is needed add broth or cold water to cover. Bring to a brisk simmer and cook with cover ajar for about 6 to 7 minutes or until fideos are barely tender. Uncover; add the shrimp, pushing them down into the broth and cook about 3 minutes longer until shrimp turn pink. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Pollo Y Fideos

To prep ahead for this savory Peruvian dish cut a small crisscross opposite the stem end of the tomatoes then drop in boiling water for 20-30 seconds, peel will come off easily. Break the cappellini into thirds and toast in 2 teaspoons of oil until golden. Scrape the carrots, cut coarsely and puree in a food processor.

Serves 4

1 chicken, cut into eighths

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion finely chopped

4 large plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

3 carrots, scraped and chopped coarsely

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound cappellini or angel hair pasta,
toasted dry

2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
for garnish

1. Trim, wash and dry chicken parts with paper towels and set aside. Warm oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet and add the onion. Sauté onion for 3 to 4 minutes until tender then add the tomatoes and carrot purée. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and let simmer about 15 minutes. The sauce can be completely prepared ahead to this point.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add salt to taste to save for cooking the fideos later. Meanwhile, submerge the chicken pieces in the prepared sauce and simmer with cover ajar. If there isn’t enough liquid in the sauce add enough water to keep the chicken pieces submerged. Cook the breast pieces about 15 to 18 minutes and remove from pan; cook the legs and thighs 5 to 8 minutes longer. In the last 5 to 8 minutes or so put the toasted fideos in the boiling water to finish cooking in about the time left to cook the chicken.

3. Drain the fideos and divide among four plates. Top with chicken pieces according to diners wishes and spoon over the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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