Think of this as a paella with noodles Catalan style -- it's a tribute to the city of Gaudi and FC Barcelona and the Ramblas. In a way, it’s a cousin of the bouillabaisse of Marseille. It’s cooked in an earthenware cazuela which in Catalan would be “cassola”. For now, I’m just using clams and fish fillet, but I’d be tempted to incorporate fresh snails in their shells to mimic the helmet sculptures in Gaudi’s Parc Guell should I ever track down a source for really good live ones.
This recipe calls for small clams and black cod, which, on the West Coast, masquerades under a number of names including sablefish. It’s less boney than the traditional rascasse of the Mediterranean, so you can purchase a simple, clean fillet. And it goes like this, road runner:
Test Kitchen Notes
Pierino has turned what is usually a very basic meatless side dish into a star entree with deep, smoky flavor. The toasting adds depth and texture to the pasta, the chorizo adds a luscious fattiness, and the clam juice steeped with saffron lends a brininess to the finished dish. You could stop there and be totally happy. But then, pierino has you add fresh clams and sablefish to really gild the lily. It all comes together for deeply satisfying and warming dish -- perfect for a rainy fall night. If you want to make cleanup quicker, you could easily streamline this dish into one pan by setting aside your sofrito and seared fish as you go along. —MGrace
sweet onions, chopped
Tomatoes from a 14.5 oz can, drained and broken up by hand
cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil, a light oil such as Columela or one made from arbequina olives*
chicken or shellfish stock
Saffron threads (as many as you can afford)
fideo pasta in coils, slightly broken up
small manila clams or cockles -- the smaller the better
fillet of black cod cut into large pieces
garlic sausage or other semi-cured variety, such as chorizo bilbao
In a 12-inch skillet, begin your sofregit (soffrito in Italian) with the oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Hold this over a low flame while you heat your stock.
Into your stock dissolve a generous pinch of saffron.
In an earthenware cazuela or a heavy-bottomed skillet, bring some olive oil to something short of smoke point, like little ripples on the surface (you may want to do this over a flame tamer).
Add the broken fideo noodles to the cazuela and just lightly color them with the oil. Add the sausage, followed by ladles of saffron-infused stock little by little until the pasta softens up. Then add in your sofregit (garlic-tomato mix).
In a separate pan, sear the cut pieces of black cod in olive oil. Season while you go.
Add the seared fish into the cazuela, followed by your nicely scrubbed clams and slap a lid on it. As soon as the clams are singing opera the dish is finished. Except for maybe some aioli.
*Arbequina olives are tiny ones, typical of Catalonian olive oils. But they are also now being grown in California from imported tree stock and you can find some very nice, affordable oils domestically produced. California Olive Ranch is a reliable brand.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.