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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Mexican Comfort Food: Baked Fideo

Baked Fideo

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I worked at the Food Network back in my early twenties. It was the early days of the network. Back when all of the hosts were trained chefs, the staff numbered about fifty, and all of the sets rotated on one tiny sound stage. It was a fun, fun job, and I got to meet some amazing people.

Two of my favorite hosts were the Two Hot Tamales. They were wonderful women, full of smiles and laughter, and the joy they got from their food and their friendship was infectious. Whenever I had the pleasure of being around these women, I was thrilled. It didn't hurt that all of their food was amazing. From the moistest tamales you've ever tasted to amazing homemade salsa, I loved all of it.

One of my favorite dishes in their repertoire was Baked Fideo. It's a cheap and easy meal that manages to taste both comforting and exotic, and when Michael and I were a poor young couple scraping by in New York, it was one of our regular dishes. For some reason, though, I hadn't made it in years. Tonight, though, I suddenly remembered this long lost dish, and quickly cooked up an amazing meal.

My version is slightly different from the one that Mary Sue and Susan made (they use fresh tomatoes and dried chipotles), but the spirit of it is the same. It's smokey and a bit spicy, and all together delicious.

Baked Fideo

1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped into eights
6 garlic cloves, cut in half
2 chipotles in adobo plus a teaspoon or two of the sauce (found in the Mexican aisle - these come in a small can - there are a few in the can, but you only want two)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
8 ounces angel hair pasta (I like buying the nests - they are easier to break up)
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup grated anejo cheese (this is hard to find - I usually substitute Parmigiano Reggiano)
sliced avocado and sour cream to garnish

Prehat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotles and water.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Break up the pasta into pieces and add it to the oil, stirring frequently. When the pasta is browned (again, stir a LOT so it doesn't burn), add the tomato sauce from the blender and the vegetable stock. Bring the entire mixture to a simmer, and then pour it into a 13x9 inch baking dish.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 12 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Turn the heat up to 400 degrees and bake the dish for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with sliced avocado and sour cream as garnish. Enjoy!

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