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.

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