Tag Archives: stock

Fideua: Spanish Pasta with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp

I had an urge to make paella — but not the more traditional kind made with rice — and now that I think of it, if rice isn’t in it, then it’s probably not called paella.  No, I’d seen a recipe featured in Saveur some time ago which used thin, short pieces of pasta resembling spaghetti broken to bits, and it’s taken me until recently to give it a go.  I haven’t made paella for years thinking that having a best friend who’s a pro at whipping out her four foot diameter authentic paella pan whenever anyone mentions “party” has kept me lazy.  I don’t have a paella pan, but can manage a batch in a large skillet on my stove instead of a wood fueled fire on the patio which could incite neighbors to call 911 because they think the house is on fire.

The intrigue of the pasta or fideos based paella is the cooking process.  It’s very similar to a rice-based recipe, but pasta absorbs the liquid more quickly, and there’s less a worry about whether or not to stir the rice you’re not supposed to stir so it can develop a nice crust.  That isn’t the case with the pasta version, but it’s a challenge to keep from stirring it when you’ve got an impetuous stirrer in residence.

A basic paella requires a good pan which is not so thick, heat that will be distributed evenly across the pan, a short-grained rice that will absorb liquid without making the rice gummy, and liquid.  The finished product should be moist, but unlike risotto, contain separate pieces of tender rice.  Since I was foregoing rice for the recipe I chose, and because the original recipe was relatively easy, I decided to make my own fish stock — because.

Picture me at the Asian market in front of the fish case scanning several varieties of fish heads.  Large fish heads.  Inexpensive fish heads —  all under $4/lb.  A perky young man behind the counter asks whether he can help me and I tell him while pointing to a white fish, “I’m making fish stock,” to which he responds pointing to the salmon, “It better for you.”  I know this, but also know it’s very oily.  Should I mention that no matter how good salmon is for me, I am not one of its biggest fans?  He continues, “You want me clean it up for you?”  And I say that I’m happy to do it myself, but he grins and says, “I do it better for you.  You too busy.”

I am so not busy and loving every second of it.  Any busyness in my life now is self-generated.

But he certainly was correct about doing it better than I could, because after I removed the brown paper wrapping at home, I had to admire an extremely clean,  perfectly sectioned salmon head.  What had I been thinking before?  Had I insisted on taking care of it myself, I would have had to wrestle with it without the correct type of knife, then smell like the village fish monger for my trouble.  A not very busy fish monger, but still.

I was still concerned about making broth with salmon so had to do some research before choosing a recipe.  Evidently, it’s a matter of opinion.

Have you ever made any kind of fish stock before?

If you aren’t in the mood to tackle that, there are other options, but if you’re a paella lover, try this version of Fideua for a change.  Or, if you’ve always wondered about paella but haven’t tried it, start with this.

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Demi-glace: A Mother of a Sauce

At some point when you've got as much time as I do on your hands, you get around to cooking something that caught your eye years ago when time was quite the precious commodity.  But years have gone by since then and time does a good job of layering all the possibilities life tosses in our path, so the urge was buried until I saw the December issue of Saveur last year showcasing traditional meat sauces such as charcutiere and bordelaise — sauces I've made before, but with purchased demi-glace.

There was no reason not to try the demi-glace recipe since time seemed to be the biggest requirement, and it wasn't even focused time.  Thankfully.  How hard could it be to roast a few pounds of bones and then simmer them for a few hours?

Twenty hours, to be exact, and that's just the simmering time.

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It's not often that I see meat bones in the case at the grocery store, so when I saw a couple of packages, I tossed them in the cart wondering just how many I'd need to make my own demi-glace.  A second glance at the article after I got home informed me I'd need about ten, so I put the bones in the freezer knowing it may be a while before I saw more.

You're thinking I should have gone to the butcher, right?  Yes, I believe I know where one is thanks to a very good friend who purchases lovely cuts of meat there for special occasions.  I still haven't been there myself, however, so the idea of actually picking up the telephone to call and inquire about whether they'd have some bones for me at some point in the foreseeable future appeared far more organized than my serendipitous self seems to be these days.

It's a very sad state of affairs.

But I did happen on a few more packages of beef bones in the next few weeks, so decided that I'd give the recipe a go.

Although there seems to be a bit of variation on how one goes about making demi-glace, essentially, it's made from roasting bones with a small amount of vegetable and tomato, then slowly simmering the bones in a good quantity of water for hours before straining, then reducing.  Some versions require a Sauce Espagnole to be made first, which requires a thickener such as flour, and then that sauce blended with beef stock before reducing.

In consulting Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, there is no simple recipe for demi-glace.  Instead, here is what can be found:

"The classical French brown sauce starts out with a long-simmered brown meat stock that goes into the making of an equally long-simmered, lightly thickened sauce base called an espagnole.  The espagnole is simmered and skimmed for several hours more with additional stock and flavorings until it finally develops into the traditional mother of the brown sauces, demi-glace. But as we are concerned with less formal cooking, we shall discuss it no further." (pg. 66, Vol. I)

Evidently, to some, however,the addition of the thickener is sacriledge and far be it from me to sway from a purist perspective on this.  Besides, making an espagnole first would require additional ingredients and steps — not something I was interested in. No, I'll save that one for another time.

To make the Saveur recipe, I'd need:

  • a very large roasting pan;
  • a very large stock pot;
  • a chinois; and/or
  • a fine meshed strainer.

And I'd need to not mind the scent of roasting beef permeating my house for two days.

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