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Shrimp fideos with red bell pepper and edamame

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Blue Kitchen

(Read caption) Edamame makes a colorful addition to this dish, but you can also use frozen peas as a substitute. Cook the edamame a day ahead for an easier prep at meal time.

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One of the things I love about cooking is how recipes for the same essential dish can be so different. For fideos – short, thin noodles toasted and then cooked into Spanish (and Italian and Mexican) stews and soups, this is spectacularly so.

Fideos is actually the name of a specific type of thin noodle, most often short, slightly curved pieces. According to Joey Campanaro, chef/co-owner of The Little Owl in New York, fideos is the Catalan word for noodles, and many Spanish cooks use it instead of rice to make paella. Typically, English-language recipes call for using vermicelli, cappellini, or spaghetti and breaking it into short pieces. 

The variations in fideos recipes start at the toasting of the noodles themselves. Some – the most authentic sounding to me – call for toasting them in a skillet or paella pan on the stovetop. With others, you toast them in the oven on a baking sheet. Still others would have you skip the toasting process altogether. This is just wrong; the nutty flavor the toasted pasta takes on is invaluable in this dish. And to me, if you don’t toast them, you end up with just another spaghetti recipe.

Even after I’d settled on a version using shrimp, variations abounded. Saffron, no saffron. Sweet paprika, smoky paprika (or both). Tomatoes or no. Wine, brandy; fish stock, chicken stock, stock flavored with ham hocks; clams, mussels, olives….

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