Written by Chef Alan Zox, email@example.com Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
My father once traveled with me to Spain for business and pleasure. It was wonderful being with him but more eventful than I had expected. We drove from Madrid to a small village south of Barcelona that a friend had recommended to us. The trip held few surprises until I discovered my dad did not feel limited by the language barrier. Upon returning from parking our car near the café where we stopped for lunch, I found my dad trying to speak in sign language with the café owner. The owner didn’t speak a spot of English but told me (in Spanish, because I speak it) that he found my father totally charming.
An hour later we arrived at our hotel south of Barcelona, where we leased an inexpensive room on the bay. Our breakfast was included and consisted of cheeses, eggs, olives, Greek yogurt and coffee. After getting settled in our room we decided to stroll down the avenue along the beach where we discovered several cafes that specialized in a dish called paella with chicken and shellfish and another called fideos with seafood. My dad loved paella and I had heard that one particular café specialized in seafood with fideos Andalucian style that I enjoyed. We took pleasure in a bottle of Rioja and our entrees while watching the local fishing boats return to their moorings with the day’s catch as the sun set over the water. Eating alfresco is sublime and enjoyable.
I didn’t realize however that my dad’s tendency to eat slowly became a novelty for the waiters. When I was younger it had become an annoyance to me because I had the opposite problem — I always eat too fast. I was bemused by the waiters’ response to my Dad’s leisurely eating. They began to stand around chatting and laughing and making bets about how long it would take him to complete his meal. I could understand a few of the waiters’ jokes although most of the men spoke Catalan — the native language of the region — and not Spanish, so my comprehension was a bit sketchy. Dad was unaware of the betting that ensued but didn’t care because he was enjoying his meal so much. And I was similarly enthralled with my meal as well.
The second night we returned to the same café for another dinner alfresco. Dad ordered the same dish — paella with chicken and shellfish. I had a similar dish to the one I had the night before, grilled shrimp with smoked paprika, tomatoes and polenta rather than fideos. The number of waiters had increased and the betting began again. And even though my 80-year-old dad recognized what was taking place, he didn’t mind at all since the meal, company and warm evening breezes were so pleasant. There was a full moon as well and it became another evening we could remember together. All in all, it was a very special experience.
Inspired By Mario Batali In A Culinary Roadtrip To Spain
Fideos are short pieces of thin pasta wrapped into round bunches that open up when browned in oil and then are cooked in liquid until tender. Choose the freshest shellfish you can find — such as shrimp, mussels, razor or other small clams. Fideos are usually available in most super markets.
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 pound fideos (or angel hair pasta broken into 1-inch pieces
• 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
• 2 garlic cloves, diced
• 1 teaspoon hot pimento (Spanish smoked paprika)
• 1 28 ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes — ideally Progresso brand or Marzano tomatoes
• 6 cups fish or clam stock
• 1.5 pounds shrimp
• 24 razor clams or cherry stone clams
• Add and cook fideos in the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until well browned. Using a skimmer, transfer the fideos to a room temperature bowl.
• Add the onion, garlic, and pimento to the pot and cook until the onion is beginning to soften-about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice — breaking up tomatoes with your hands. Continue cooking, raising heat and stirring frequently until tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened — 15 to 20 minutes.
• In another heavy pot, combine the stock, wine, bay leaf and saffron and bring to a boil. Add the seafood, cover and cook for 4–6 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp are opaque. Transfer the seafood to a large room temperature bowl.
• Add the shellfish cooking liquid to the tomato sauce with the fideos and cook, stirring frequently, until the fideos have absorbed a lot of the liquid and are soft, 10-15 minutes. To finish, add the shellfish, simmer gently just to heat through, and serve.
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