With the rain whipping at my kitchen windows, I raided the cupboard and came up with some canned soups, a can or two of tuna, some sardines — the usual. But my search also turned up one brightly colored box of fideo. This skinny pasta, called vermicelli, has a long history in Texas. In fact, the familiar red and yellow box tells us the the brand has been around for 100 years.
Its preparation is simple, but like any “simple” food there are many ways to prepare it.
It can be soupy or not soupy, it can have ground beef or even stewed chicken in it. Or not. At least a pinch of cumin is one of the requirements, I believe. And tomato is usually in there — be it sauce, chopped fresh tomato or even a squirt or two of ketchup, which I saw a cook do once.
After it’s ladled into bowls, toppings can include crumbled bacon, cotija cheese, minced fresh cilantro, cubed or sliced avocado or a scoop of tender, cooked pinto beans. Or keep it simple for the kids with a pat of butter and some grated Parmesan.
Where I grew up, on the Arizona-Sonora border, there was a variation on fideo called macaroni soup. The dry macaroni was fried until it browned up a little, usually in bacon grease. Then onion and garlic were stirred in and it was fried some more. The macaroni went into a pot of boiling water and was cooked until it was good and tender, with a little tomato sauce to make the broth red. We were kids who grew up on Campbell’s soups, but when one of my mom’s housekeepers introduced us to macaroni soup, were were converts.
This is how I made today’s fideo.
Three slices bacon, fried and drained; reserve bacon fat
15-ounce box fideo (vermicelli) noodles
2 1/2 cups water or 1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth plus 1/2 cup water
2 medium cloves garlic, mashed and minced
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 pinches of ground cumin, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste, optional
Garnishes (optional): Chopped avocado, crumbled bacon, grated cotija or Parmesan cheese, cooked (hot) pinto beans, minced cilantro
Chop up the cooked bacon and set aside. Put the liquid (water, or water and chicken broth) on and bring to a boil.
In large skillet put a tablespoon or so of the reserved bacon fat. Warm it up, the put in the dried fideo noodles. Let the pan get medium hot, and stir the noodles around in the fat until the begin to brown. You don’t have to get every single noodle brown, just a bunch of them.
Push the fried noodles over to a cooler side of the skillet and put in the garlic and onion to brown, using a little more fat if you need to. When these are browned, push them over to the noodles and then pour in the minced tomato and fry it. Add cumin and a little salt and pepper, if using.
Pour the ingredients from the skillet into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little so that the noodles don’t boil over. Add half of the crumbled bacon to the pot as well. When the noodles are tender, season it to taste with salt. Garnish each bowl of noodles with the rest of the crumbled bacon and/or one of the suggested garnishes.
Makes 4 servings.
From Bonnie Walker