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Shrimp fideos with red bell pepper and edamame

Fideos are thin toasted noodles used in Spanish soups and stews. Add some shrimp, edamame, and a red pepper to make a simple, tasty dinner. 

By Blue Kitchen / October 10, 2012

Edamame makes a colorful addition to this dish, but you can also use frozen peas as a substitute. Cook the edamame a day ahead for an easier prep at meal time.

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One of the things I love about cooking is how recipes for the same essential dish can be so different. For fideos – short, thin noodles toasted and then cooked into Spanish (and Italian and Mexican) stews and soups, this is spectacularly so.

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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Fideos is actually the name of a specific type of thin noodle, most often short, slightly curved pieces. According to Joey Campanaro, chef/co-owner of The Little Owl in New York, fideos is the Catalan word for noodles, and many Spanish cooks use it instead of rice to make paella. Typically, English-language recipes call for using vermicelli, cappellini, or spaghetti and breaking it into short pieces. 

The variations in fideos recipes start at the toasting of the noodles themselves. Some – the most authentic sounding to me – call for toasting them in a skillet or paella pan on the stovetop. With others, you toast them in the oven on a baking sheet. Still others would have you skip the toasting process altogether. This is just wrong; the nutty flavor the toasted pasta takes on is invaluable in this dish. And to me, if you don’t toast them, you end up with just another spaghetti recipe.

Even after I’d settled on a version using shrimp, variations abounded. Saffron, no saffron. Sweet paprika, smoky paprika (or both). Tomatoes or no. Wine, brandy; fish stock, chicken stock, stock flavored with ham hocks; clams, mussels, olives….

Chef Campanaro cooked a version for Martha Stewart using fava beans. I liked the nutty flavor and bright green color they add, especially with the red bell pepper. But fava beans aren’t in season right now and are a fair amount of work, what with shelling them twice. Edamame is a nice stand-in, offering the same nutty taste and touch of color. They’re available frozen at Trader Joe’s, among other places. As a bonus, you’ll end up with more than you need for the recipe – they make a great snack. If you can’t find them, frozen peas will add the color, but with a sweet note rather than nutty.

This recipe isn’t difficult at all, but there are a lot of moving parts. Doing some of them ahead – such as cooking and shelling the edamame, peeling and cleaning the shrimp, using the shells to flavor your stock (also optional) and even breaking the pasta into short pieces – makes it all come together much more quickly at meal time.

Shrimp fideos with red bell pepper and edamame
Serves 3 (see Kitchen Notes)

1 package frozen edamame (or 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed)
1/2 pound small or medium-sized raw shrimp
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth or stock, unsalted or reduced sodium preferred
8 ounces vermicelli or other thin pasta, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine]
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Do ahead. Cook the edamame according to package directions. This can be done a day ahead, storing cooked edamame in the shells in the fridge. An hour or so before cooking the, shell 1/2 cup of edamame beans and set aside.

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