Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Studies Abroad

What's the first dinner dish that you learned to prepare? I mean, the first one that was not the result of a can in one hand and a can opener in the other.

Maybe it was grilled cheese, maybe it was a salad of some kind.

For me, it may have been baked pasta. (I say may have been because I recall making 3-Alarm Chili from a packet around the age of twelve. However, sticking to my own rules, that chili technically came from a packet, so it does not count.)

This is baked pasta, as prepared by a twenty-year-old with a small dorm kitchen: you boil some penne or rigatoni, smother it in a sludgy sauce, spoon some ricotta over it all (okay, okay, the ricotta came from a container), then top it with shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and devour like a starving wolf with your closest friends.

Even though I'm a bit older and own better appliances, I still enjoy baked pasta in all its carby forms. I just prefer some nuance with my meals now, so when I came across this version of Catalan fideua, it clicked in my mind as something worth learning.

Catalan fideua is, essentially, a Spanish baked pasta dish. Unlike my dorm room version, fideua has dazzle. The chorizo gives it a mighty kick of spice, while the paprika mellows the whole plate with sultry, smoky undertones. When you take the pasta out of the oven, you will find a lovely crust of pasta covering a steamy, tomatoey mound of pasta, sausage and vegetables.

This is the baked pasta of your college years, after spending a semester abroad in Barcelona.

Catalan Fideua
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
1/2 of a green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 1/2 cup of chicken stock
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a pinot grigio with good results)
2 links of Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/2 slices on the diagonal
1/2 pound fideo or angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy, deep skillet, such as a paella pan.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the smoked paprika and cayenne and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato and green pepper and sauté another 2 minutes. Finally, add the chicken stock, wine, and chorizo.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. Break the pasta in half and nestle it into the liquid in the pan. Cook until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Set the skillet in the oven and bake until all liquid is absorbed and pasta is crusty, about 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Serves: 2

7 comments:

Foodycat said...

How hilarious! I made fideua this week as well, I'm planning to blog about it on the weekend.

noble pig said...

What a beautiful dish. I am racking my brain trying to think of my first real meal I made and I can't...maybe it will come to me.

Anyway, looks like an amazing dish I'd love to try. I also have wonderful memories of Barcelona.

Caviar and Codfish said...

Love that ingredient list! I'll have to try my hand at your pasta soon.

I think the first dish I ever *cooked* was a bowl of brown rice, eggs, peppers, onions, and bacon in my college dorm. And we put ketchup all over the thing!

Nikki said...

The first thing I learned to cook was jambalaya and biscuits. All in the same night. I just learned of fideos on Top Chef when Ilan made them. With the clams. Barcelona is my favorite European city. And none of these sentences go together LOL

Kelly said...

Oh yummy..I never made this before..looks fabulous!
My first real meal I made for my folks when I was in 6th grade..and i cooked up some chicken breasts with some cream of chicken or something..threw in some broccoli and cheese and threw it in the oven..it was their anniversary..
and I think I made them mac and cheese to go along with it..haha

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

This looks amazing! I adore Catalan food! I recently made a great fideos dish too, but with chorizo and almonds.

I don't remember the first thing I ever cooked, but I do remember cooking chicken cacciatore in my apt. during law school once. The lid got vacuum sealed on the pan and when I tried to pry it off, the whole thing exploded! There was tomato sauce all over every inch of my kitchen! When I moved out 2 years later, I still found spots of dried up sauce in places.

Sarah said...

Foodycat: Great minds think alike :) I checked out your version and it looks wonderful!

Noble Pig: Thank you! Barcelona is a lot of fun--my favorite memories involve the funky architecture.

Caviar and Codfish: I was admiring your taste as a college student until I got to the ketchup! Ah well, I can't judge; I put Newman's Own salad dressing on everything that I ate in college.

Nikki: Ha ha, I like your variety of sentences! I'm impressed that you started with jambalaya and biscuits--two of my favorite things.

Kelly: How sweet :) That sounds better than my 5-Alarm chili efforts!

Stickygooey: Ha ha, oh my gosh! I'm picturing a volcano of tomato sauce!! Almonds sound like an interesting addition to this dish, too.