Meet sopa seca de lenguitas, one of Mexico's many so-called 'dry soups'. This dry soup of tiny tongue-shaped pasta is one of Mexico Cooks!' favorite accompaniments to a home-style comida (Mexico's main meal of the day).
Mexico eats a lot of soup, both sopa aguada (liquid soup) and sopa seca (dry soup). I can hear some of you scratching your heads: dry soup? What?
Here's the scoop on the soup:
--Sopa aguada includes consomés, caldos (broths), and cremas (cream soups). Consomé is clear broth made of chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables. It's sometimes served plain and sometimes includes a bit of chicken or a few chopped vegetables.
Caldos can include caldo de pollo (Mexico's famous chicken soup, loaded with chicken and fresh vegetables), cocido (aka caldo de res, beef soup similar to caldo de pollo), caldo de camarón (shrimp broth), sopa de pasta (usually a tomato broth with plenty of small-size pasta cooked in it), and a long list of other kinds of caldos. Sopa azteca and sopa de tortilla also fall in the caldo category.
--Cremas, on the other hand, are cream soups. Everyone is familiar with cream of mushroom, cream of spinach, and cream of broccoli soups, and Mexico has them, too. There are other cream soups that are more common in Mexico than in other parts of the world: crema de flor de calabaza (squash flower), crema de chile poblano, and crema de cilantro are a few of those. Liquid soups like any of these are served as the first course of a comida corrida--a multi-course comida offered at a single price in fondas or cocinas económicas, small family-run restaurants popular all over Mexico. Soups of all kinds are also offered on high-end restaurant menus.
Crema de flor de calabaza, as served at Restaurante Azul/Histórico, Mexico City. Each bowl of this soup contains 18 squash flowers!
Now: what's the deal with these so-called sopas secas (dry soups)?
--A sopa seca is usually the second course of a comida corrida; sopa seca includes rice (arroz a la mexicana, arroz blanco, or arroz verde: Mexican red rice, steamed white rice, or rice cooked with various fragrant green herbs). The dry soup category also includes pastas such as espaguetis con crema (spaghetti with cream sauce), macaronis con jamón y crema (macaroni with ham and cream), and others, which are lumped under the umbrella of fideos. Fideos are any small-form pasta (angel hair, tiny shells, alphabet letters, gears, wee bow ties, etc.) cooked in broth until all of the broth is absorbed into the pasta.
La Moderna has always been my favorite brand of small pasta for making fideos. You'll probably be able to find this brand at a Latin market near you. If not, you'll see other brands that you can substitute.
We're going to learn how to make fideos right now. This dish ranks up there with the simplest thing in the world and I guarantee you that this 'dry soup' will be a family favorite from the first time you put it on the table.
Sopa Seca de Fideos
1 200 gram package small pasta, La Moderna or other brand, any shape you like
2-3 Tbsp lard or vegetable oil
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1 chile serrano, split from the tip almost to the stem end (stem removed)
1 Tbsp Knorr Suiza Tomate bouillon powder, dissolved in 2 cups boiling water (shhh, don't tell)
10" non-stick sauté pan with cover
Wooden or plastic spoon
1 Tbsp Measuring spoon
2-cup heat-resistant measuring cup
In the sauté pan, melt the lard or heat the oil until either is just shimmering. Add the finely diced onion and the split chile and stir over medium heat until the onion is soft and the chile has begun to blister.
Beginning the sauté step.
Add the fideos and continue to stir over low-to-medium fire until the pasta is light golden brown. Be careful not to burn the onion. At this point, you can remove the chile if you prefer that your fideos not have much picante (spicy hot) flavor.
Your fideos, toasty golden brown.
The housewife's secret weapon: Knorr Suiza Tomate, a powdered bouillon concentrate for the times when you just don't want (or don't have the ingredients) to make a caldillo de jitomate (thin tomato broth). You can also buy Knorr Suiza in boullion cubes; it also comes in beef, chicken, and shrimp flavors. In 'homey' Mexican recipes, this convenient ingredient is often written knorrsuiza. High-end chefs look down their noses at knorrsuiza, so let's not tell any of them that we're using it today.
Add a tablespoon of the knorrsuiza secret ingredient to 2 cups of water that you have brought to a boil. I usually boil the water in the microwave, in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Stir until the secret ingredient is thoroughly dissolved.
Bring the secret ingredient and the fideos, onions, and chile to a boil in the sauté pan.
Lower the heat to very low and cover the sauté pan. Simmer for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the fideos are tender. Remove the pan from the heat.
A little bowlful of the finished product. You are welcome to eat your fideos plain, sprinkle the fideos with some crumbled queso fresco (fresh, semi-soft cheese) or with some crumbled queso Cotija, a hard, sharper cheese.
Let me know how you like the fideos--and don't tell a soul that I made them with the housewife's secret ingredient!
Provecho! (Mexico's way to say bon appetit!)
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