10 February 2010

Bringing Back a Favorite Food Memory ... Fideus Catalan-Style

I remember a day that Silent Bob and I spent with friends driving around in the countryside northwest of Barcelona. We drove to Montserrat Monastery and took the cable car up to the heights to see the abbey and its church that housed the Black Madonna. We drove south through some vineyards and tiny Catalonian villages, and finally arrived back on the Mediterranean coastline. We ended up in a resort town called Sitges. It was there that I first put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea. After roaming the beach, we stopped at a small, seaside restaurant for dinner. It was there that Maria introduced us to fideus - a spaghetti-like noodle that, in this case, was dyed with squid ink, dressed with fresh seafood, and coated with a gorgeous fishy sauce. I can still close my eyes and remember my reaction to that first bite. The freshness of the squid and salty tanginess of the mussels was such a revelation to me. These were not the fish of my WASP-ish background. This was a different kind of simple, fresh, comfort food. There were other dishes brought to the table that afternoon, but fideus has stayed within my 'food memory file' all these years.

Today, I crave fideus. Perhaps it's because the prospect of more cold and snowy weather is making me wish for a sunny beach. Perhaps it's because I've been trying to eat more vegetables and meat and less carbohydrates of late. Whatever the reason, I am digging into my cookbook called  Culinaria - Spain and putting together Fideus A L'Estil De Lleida, a meaty version made with pork medallions, browned sausage crumble, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and beef stock, and paprika. This will be a very different experience from the seaside version that I remember from Sitges, but I'm finding that fideus comes in many different manifestations! For that, I'm thankful!


I have changed up the recipe from my cookbook just a bit. I like using boneless cuts of meat, so the chops are boneless pork tenderloin chops, I added the teaspoon of tomato paste because it's the winter and the tomatoes one buys now have less body and richness. I also switched up the total paprika measure with part smoked and part mild ... just because I love smoked paprika. I also added the flat-leaf parsley because I have a thing for green and color in my food. So there... an adaptation of the original.

Fideus A L'Estil Lleida
Catalan Fideus

Ingredients:

4 small boneless pork chops
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. Butifarra sausage or sweet Italian sausage (loose), broken into small pieces
3 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 heaping tsp. tomato paste
1 c. strong beef broth
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. mild paprika
salt and pepper
9 oz. fideus or thin spaghetti snapped into 1-inch pieces
4 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Wash and dry the pork chops and salt and pepper them on both sides.

Heat a non-stick fry pan and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan.

Pan sear the pork chops on all sides and then remove them from the pan to a nearby plate.

Add the onion and garlic to the same pan and sweat them until they glisten, then add the sausage and brown it.

When sausage is brown, add the tomatoes and cook them briefly to break them down a bit. Then add the paprikas and stir to incorporate the spices into the sauce base.

Add the beef broth and the tomato paste, stirring to break up the paste. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or two and then pour in the fideus, stirring to coat them with the sauce.

Add enough hot water to cover the fideus (not too much!), lay the pork chops and any juices they have wept on the top of the fideus, lower the heat to medium low, and cover.

Cook the fideus until they are al dente, then remove the pork chops and set aside, plate the fideus on a nice serving platter, stir in the chopped parsley, sprinkle on the salt and pepper to taste, and top with the pork chops.

Serve with a crusty loaf for mopping up the juices.

Truly a country-style offering... the pan searing seals the chops so that they don't dry out, and the short time with the cover on finishes them beautifully. Surely, a salad or other vegetable would be a fine accompaniment to this meal, but it can stand alone and be totally satisfying... let me know what you think!


2 comments:

  1. Oh My! I made this last night and we love the mingling of flavors. I'm very glad it made a gargantuan amount for the two of us. Now I can eat it for lunch all week! Thanks.

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  2. @ Kay - So glad you liked it! I loved all the Catalan food that we had while visiting Barcelona. When I found the cookbook that this recipe came from, I felt like I hit paydirt! There are so many basic ways of treating food that bring our subtle flavors and 'mingle them', as you say

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