Reprinted from Catalan Food: Culture & Flavors from the Mediterranean. Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Olivella and Caroline Wright. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Through opening B44 as one of the first Catalan restaurants in the U.S., I was able to showcase my heritage in a way that made my parents proud. It was there that my father began to see what I was doing, some version of what I had been fighting for as a kid.
In Spain we were humble and never went to the one restaurant in town. Little did we know that, decades later, my dad—a man with whom I had very little in common as a kid—would go to his son’s restaurants and order everything off the menu. But the one dish he loved ordering most was my fidueà, a rich, briny reminder of home and everything we had left behind.
Fideuà is similar to paella, but it is made with short toasted noodles called fideus, which you can find at Hispanic markets. You can also toast the noodles yourself as described here. The dish starts on the stovetop just like paella, but then it is finished in the oven. You can tell it is done when you look into the oven and the noodles are standing up—or trempant, as we say in Catalan, meaning “with an erection.”
At its heart, Catalan cooking is down-to-earth home cooking, often done slowly while you relax and take care of other things around the house. Cooking authentic Catalan food is my own small way of continuing the revolution, I guess—through food. —Food52
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: A Catalan Dish for My Country, 43 Years After the Spanish Dictatorship. —The Editors
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 to share
fideus or vermicelli
3 1/2 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
store-bought fish stock
small garlic clove, peeled
plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
curly parsley leaves
Spanish onion, finely chopped
firm white fish, such as monkfish or snapper, cut into 1-inch pieces
cuttlefish or squid steaks, cut into ½-inch pieces
squid bodies, sliced into rings, and tentacles
freshly ground black pepper
medium shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined, tails left on
frozen peas, thawed
small lemon wedges
- Heat the oven to 350°F. If you're using vermicelli, break the pasta into 1-inch pieces with your hands over a large sheet pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the pasta or fideus and toss to coat well. Shake the noodles into a single layer, then toast in the oven, shaking the pan once or twice, for 8 to 10 minutes, until deep golden brown. Let cool completely.
- Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a gentle simmer.
- Meanwhile, make a picada by mashing the garlic and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt to a fine paste with a mortar and pestle. Gradually add the parsley, mashing each addition completely before adding more, until a green paste forms. Stir in 1½ teaspoons of the oil; set aside.
- In a 12-inch paella pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until darkened and starting to caramelize. Increase the heat to high, add the fish, cuttlefish, and squid, and cook, tossing frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the fish begins to shrink and turn opaque. Stir in the toasted noodles until shiny with oil.
- Add the reserved picada, sofrito, paprika, black pepper, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt. Add about 3 cups of the stock, shaking to settle and loosen any noodle clusters as the stock begins to boil. Only shake the noodles at this point; if stirred, they will become sticky.
- Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until some of the stock is absorbed. Test the noodles for doneness—they should be about halfway cooked by now. If the noodles no longer have room to swim, add about 1 cup more stock. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes more, until only a thin layer of the stock rests on top.
- Bury the shrimp throughout the noodles and scatter the peas over the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 5 to 7 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink, all the stock has evaporated, and the crispy noodles stand up in the pan.
- Spoon the aioli onto the center of the noodles. Serve at the center of the table with spoons for guests to serve themselves and the lemon wedges for squeezing. Stir the aioli into the noodles only after the dish is on the table.
- Do Ahead: The fideus can be toasted 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.