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Fideos

I made a lot of soup this winter—probably a pot per week. And at some point during these past few months, I started reading entire soup chapters in cookbooks, looking for new recipes and ideas for other takes on steaming bowls of my favorite comfort food.

Meet fideos, a Mexican “dry” soup that is more noodles than broth, but more soupy than pasta. It is probably adaptable to a range of ethnic cuisines, but the Mexican version is so good, we haven’t needed to try another. I’ll thank Deborah Madison for the original inspiration, but since then, fideos recipes seem to be popping up in all sorts of places.

The first time I made this, I was trying to finish up a few bags of various thin noodles—little egg noodles, a quarter box of capellini. This recipe is good like that.

Madison’s recipe calls for a Mexican vegetable broth or red stock, but I don’t think you need to make one from scratch. I like to chop a few poblano peppers and simmer then with vegetable broth until they’re soft. Then I use my immersion blender to whirl them into even smaller pieces.

The noodles get toasted in your largest pan before being cooked with the broth. Yes, they do tend to break and occasionally fly across your stove. You can keep the recipe simple, or add sautéed onion and chopped tomatoes to the noodles as they simmer together. And then comes the best part…the cheese, two kinds, which gets melted and toasted under the broiler before the final flourishes of sour cream and herbs.

Fideos

Inspired by Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
2 poblano peppers, stems and seeds removed and chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
8 ounces capellini, spaghettini, or skinny egg noodles, broken in 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped (or in winter, 1 can diced tomatoes)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 to 2/3 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Simmer the stock with the poblanos for 15 minutes. Puree a bit in a blender, or with an immersion blender.

Heat 1 and 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large, wide broiler-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the noodles and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove them to paper towels. Add the remaining oil to the pan and sauté the onion until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 4 cups of stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the noodles have been cooked through, about 10 minutes. If they are still a little crunchy by the time the liquid is nearly absorbed, spoon over another 1/2 cup of stock and continue cooking. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Season the noodles with salt and pepper and sprinkle the cheeses over the top. Broil until the cheeses have melted and are just beginning to brown. Stir the sour cream with a fork to loosen it, then drizzle it over the top. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

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