Monkfish and Clams Fideuà is an authentic Catalan dish similar to a paella although the rice is replaced by Fideus, a short thin noodle that is fried, then it soaks the Mediterranean flavoured stock with some extra saffron touch.
The Catalan have a gastronomy of their own, and one of their most distinctive dish would be the Fideuà. They make all kind of Fideuà dish, it’s quite similar to paellas but it’s made with a noodle called Fideus. It’s usually also served in a paella pan and to make it to perfection is an art! This version here is a simplified, home version, although I’ll let you know how to nail a really professional looking Fideuà in the post. Let’s start with a general view of this Catalan dish.
The small 1 cm long and thin piece of noodle is far from being used the “Italian way”, first of all, fideuà is never”al dente”, nor are the noodles covered with a sauce but the opposite, the noodles soaks up the stock, so this is the first major difference. Some like to make their Fideuà with lots of liquid and keep the dish slightly moist with an extra stock (caldoso) others like to make sure all the stock is absorbed by the pasta and this way, you can finish the dish in the oven and if you’ve done it right, magic can happen in this step; the fideus will rise vertically and lightly grill on the top and become crisp which is in my opinion the ultimate Fideuà. For this to happen you need a large paella pan, to sauté your pasta in olive oil at first and add just a fine layer of those fideus to the pan to let them stand. For this recipe I broke the rule and use a thick bottom pan and too much fideus for the size of the pan… so the fideus couldn’t rise vertically but still a “one of a kind” dish! If you don’t find the “Catalan Fideus noodles” you can use vermicelli and break them or the Italians have a similar one called: fedelini.
The frying of the Fideus
Yes, you saw that right, the first step is to fry the Fideus noodles. This step is important in order for the fideus to keep a “softly crisp” texture or to prevent it from getting saggy, this also helps the pasta to rise in the final step. Important note about the frying, cook then at medium-low heat to prevent the noodles from getting burned… any black noodle pieces is simply a disaster for this dish. So keep an eye on your frying noodles and bring them to a nice golden-light brown color while gently moving them.
The Sofregit (the fried paste)
A kind of thick red paste resulting from a slowly cooked onion, garlic and tomato in olive oil, until all the water is out of the veggies and forms a kind of red flavorful base. This is another important element in Catalan cuisine, so many recipes starts this way. It’s a tad long but in the end it’s worth it. No only does it give flavor but color to a dish. In Spain, they are still debating if a paella should or shouldn’t start by making a sofregit. The Catalan, in the north of Spain and around are big fans of that flavorful paste for their paellas but elsewhere in Spain it’s not always well received to start a paella this way. As for the Fideuà though, it’s a necessity to start the dish with a nicely done Sofregit. It’s a simple technique but might take a few extra minutes especially if done right, because you can trick a sofregit to be done “faster” by adding wine or liquid to the onions to make them soften faster.
The Fideus technique and ingredients
For this variety of Fideuà we’ll use monkfish and clams, so if you are living somewhere which it’s difficult to find monkfish (also called scorpion fish) simply substitute it by sea bass, snapper, halibut or even scallops. As for the clams, rinse them good before adding them to the dish. Those little shells will open up and give this fresh sea taste to the dish in the final step. The technique isn’t hard, just follow the instructions, but if you want to try to make the fideus rise straight up it’s a tad more complicated; you’ll need a large paella pan of 40cm diameter for this amount of pasta to rise. Also, after the final step in the oven to lightly grill the top, it’s important to cover the complete paella with a clean towel and let it rest 5 minutes before getting the rising effect. I’ve personally have to work this technique out a bit more, although I’ve done it in culinary school but it’s not the easiest. But if you nail it once, it’s a fantastic looking dish! Anyway for now the importance is the flavour so let’s make this Fideuà dish going! Shall we?
Monkfish and Clams Fideuà
Makes 4 portions | Difficulty: Medium | Preparation: 40 minutes
- 250g fideus noodles (or broken vermicelli or fedelini)
- 500ml of fish stock / fumet (water also is fine)
- 350g Monkfish cut into large pieces of 4 cm (halibut, snapper, sea bass or scallops)
- 12 clams
- 1 1/2 onions (yellow) cut finely
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3-4 tomatoes (cut into 2 and grate the inside with a cheese grater to collect the interior and discard the skin)
- 1/4 red bell pepper cut into small dices
- 1 pinch of saffron *optional
- 1/2 sweet paprika (pimenton dulce)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
(For the optional final step; Bring the oven at 180°C (350F), use a pan that goes in the oven)
- Start by making the sofregit in a big pan, cook slowly at medium-low heat the finely chopped onions in 3 tbsp of olive oil and salt (the finer the onion is cut the fast they’ll get transparent) and cook until transparent about 5 minutes
- Add the garlic and tomato to the pan (make sure there is always a little oil left in the pan) and let the tomato water evaporate, another 5 minutes
- Once the mixture is similar to a paste, add a tad more olive oil and the monkfish pieces and cover with the sofregit and cook medium-high heat the fish until slightly golden (1 minute)
- Add the bell pepper pieces, the broth, sweet paprika and saffron and let simmer 10 minutes
- In a separate pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a pan and the fideus, cook a medium-low heat until golden (light brown), move it gently, it takes about 5 minutes
- When the broth is done reducing for 10 minutes, bring to a strong simmer, add the golden fried Fideus noodles to the broth and check the seasonning (salt and pepper), cook 2 minutes
- Add the clams and let them 1-2 minutes to simmer in the broth to open up
- For the final touch, add the pan in the oven to give the final grilled touch on top, at 180°C (350F) for just 2 minutes (this step is optional)
- Cover the Fideuà with a clean towel and let it rest 4 minutes before serving.
Traditionally served with Allioli, a garlic mayonnaise. Enjoy!