Saturday, 30 March 2013

Sopa de Fideo

It seems like a contradiction in terms, but there is a class of Mexican soups called "dry soups" or "sopa seco". Marilyn Tausend in the introduction to her recipe of Sopa de Fideo Seco con Frijol Negro, says it was common to serve both a "dry" soup and a "wet" soup before the main course in traditional Mexican meal.

The sopa de fideo with black beans is a very typical dish, however here I'm going to talk about a slightly plainer version, a simple sopa de fideo, that is a little quicker and still describes the very unusual technique involved.

Fideos are small pieces of thin noodle an inch or so long. They can be bought in the shops here the same as any dry pasta, however broken thin spaghetti (spaghettini #3) will substitute perfectly well.


OK, Let the weirdness commence.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan, add the dry fideo and fry until golden brown. Yip, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan, add the dry fideo and fry until golden brown.

This needs to be done carefully. The goal here is to colour all of the fideo evenly and you can only achieve this if you work with care, over a not too high heat and stir often. Over browning the fideo will affect the taste, but more importantly, the dish will look terrible if it's flecked with brown fideo.

The sauce
There are quite a few choices here. You need a tomato sauce, but all recipes vary. I like to add a couple of toasted and soaked guajillo chiles for a small amount of heat and a little extra colour, however chipotle or fresh chile could be used, or the sauce left without chile altogether.

The sauce is made in the blender using the tomato, about a quarter cup of onion, a clove (or less) of garlic, chile (if being used), and seasoning.

Some water or chicken stock will be necessary. How much depends on the tomatoes and how fast you cook the pasta so it's difficult to judge, just remember it's easier to add water if the dish is too dry than to remove it once the pasta is cooked. What you are aiming for is a consistency similar to a loose risotto, the soup shouldn't be too liquid, but neither should it be so tight that you can stand your spoon up in it!

The soup is garnished with a swirl crema and some queso fresco if desired.

Simple, quick, comforting, cheap, and a little strange.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Chicken Tinga

Reduced to it's absolute essentials tinga is a tomato salsa spiced with chipotle. It's commonly used with chicken but goes well with pork also. The meat is shredded and added to the sauce and is very nice served in tacos or on a toastada.

Variations on the dish center on whether chorizo is added or not and also around whether the sauce is seasoned with something acid or with something sweet. I prefer the slightly sweet version, and although chorizo makes everything better I usually don't bother with it.

3/4 roma tomatoes (or 1 can of tomatoes).
1 clove of garlic.
1/2 of a tennis ball sized onion chopped, not too finely.
1 or 2 (according to your tolerance!) chipotles in adobo with some of the adobo.
Salt to taste.
A good inch of ground black pepper.
A pinch of oregano.
1 tsp (or more) of sugar.

The fussy method is to fry the onion till translucent, then add the chorizo and the garlic. Next add the roasted and peeled tomatoes and seasonings and cook everything together for 20 to 30 minutes, finally adding the shredded meat and the sugar and simmering everything together for a few minutes before serving.

A quicker method is to put the tomato, garlic, chipotle and seasonings in a blender, if a small amount of water is necessary to get the blades spinning ad that, and blend everything. Fry the onion for a few minutes then add the tomato mixture and cook together for 15 to 20 minutes. Finally add the meat and sugar annd simmer for another few minutes.

This recipe can be adapted very easily for the slow cooker.

I think the two important things to get right for this dish are not to shred the meat too finely and secondly to get the consistency of the sauce right. The sauce should be think enough to coat the chicken and the pieces of chicken shouldn't be broken down too much.