Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mexican Noodle Soup:
Just like something Baba would make

Making Sopa de Fideo marked a cooking first for me: Never before have I made a soup with such homestyle comfort food appeal.
    Sopa de Fideo translates as Mexican Noodle Soup (click for the recipe), and I made a pot of it this past Sunday.
    It was an immediate hit with both my husband and I.
    Besides the fact it was absolutely delicious, I also loved that it was so homey, so comforting, thick with noodles and happiness.
    While still having a nice flavor, even the pickiest of the picky eaters will likely give it a chance. It’s absurdly family-friendly.
    It was like a soup my Baba (Ukrainian for grandmother) would make: Warm, simple, beautiful in its simplicity, and tasty, tasty, tasty.
    Although there was a bit of chopping and wait time involved, this was quite an easy soup to make.
    The recipe says it makes six-eight servings, but I would say count on only four if you are serving the soup as the main part of a meal (and it will disappear because it’s so good).
    In the absence of fideos (Mexican noodles) I used the substitute, rice vermicelli noodles, easy to find in the Asian foods section of supermarkets. I used the very thinnest kind available, which seemed to be the right one.
    A local supermarket luckily had queso fresco cheese in stock, so I could use it as directed. There is no recommended substitute in the recipe, but I think you could probably use mozzarella cheese in a pinch, and I have also seen feta suggested as a substitute for queso fresco in other recipes.
    In a large saucepan or soup stock pot, garlic, celery, carrots and onion are cooked in oil until soft, about 10 minutes.
    Chicken stock (I used store-bought chicken broth) and a can of whole tomatoes that have been crushed by hand are added, and the mixture is brought to a boil.
    The liquid is reduced to medium-low and is cooked about one hour. It’s strained through a fine-mesh strainer into another soup pot and is returned to the heat (I did this instead of straining into a bowl, then putting the strained soup back into the original pot, as the recipe directs).
    You may be put off by the fact, as I initially was, that the garlic, celery, carrots and onion are strained out and in effect thrown away (unless you save them for another use).
    But one mouthful or the soup and it will all make sense. The vegetables give the tomatoes and broth a mild salsa-like flavor that’s essential to the success of the soup.
    Fideos and vermicelli noodles are added to the soup and cooked (I did it for about 5 ¼ minutes, as opposed to the four suggested in the recipe).
    To serve, crumbled queso fresco is divided among soup bowls. The soup is ladeled overtop and it is garnished with parsley.

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