Fideos with ham, shrimp and clams

Since the first day Adam and I became a couple, we committed to seeing each other as much as possible despite the fact that at the time, I was living in New York and he was living in Boston (we met in college and were friends for 5 years prior). We took weekly turns on the bus to/from New York/Boston to spend the weekends together (and I’m proud to say in nearly a year, we only missed 2 weekends because of work and school related travel!). For any of you that have been in long distance relationships, you know how hard it is to be apart during the week. Of course that also made the weekends that much more special. We took advantage of every minute together. It was like honeymooning every single week Smile

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Between Boston and New York, New York was decisively the cooler of the two, and I made sure to show Adam the best the city had to offer. We spent our days eating and drinking all over New York, enjoying perfectly pressed sandwiches oozing with goat cheese and plump tomatoes; feasting on ice cream, cookies and pastries while exploring new neighborhoods (ok the pastries part was all me Winking smile); and finishing our nights with indulgent dinners and cocktails at fancy restaurants. It is then that dining out became the core of our relationship. Good food really does bring people together (oh yeah, and love).

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Eventually I developed an interest in cooking, but our love for eating out never died – it remains to be our favorite past time. Unfortunately due to my lack of income at the moment, our eating out budget has been cut significantly (it has been the hardest part of our transition). To “ease the pain,” I’ve been trying to recreate memorable meals out at home. Open-mouthed smile

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This dish of fideos with ham, shrimp and clams (recipe here; I halved it and it still made about 8 servings!) was inspired by a dish I had in a (surprise, surprise!) New York restaurant, Casa Mono (<—Mario Batali’s Spanish tapas restaurant in Union Square). It was my first time trying fideos which are thin noodles, replacing rice in this paella-like dish (yes, I know paella actually refers to the pan – not the dish – but in my mind rice, seafood and meats all cooked together with safron and Spanish spices = paella, regardless of the vessel they are cooked in). We were so blown away by Casa Mono’s fideos with chorizo and clams – we ordered round 2!

When Kerstin, Shannon and I decided to make a Spanish inspired feast, instead of going out to eat, I was eager to try my hands at a fideos dish myself… and I have to say it came out absolutely perfect – as good, if not better, than the fideos dish at Casa Mono!! Side note: Kerstin made manchego stuffed meatballs and fantastic potatoes and Shannon made some crazy brown rice milk cupcakes with almond cream cheese frosting, and her boyfriends supplied some home brewed beer and hard cider – oh yeah, we ate well that night!).

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This dish is a little time consuming but it’s mostly inactive time. You can also make the ham hock broth ahead of time, and then the whole thing will come together leisurely in about 45 minutes. Easy peasy. It was my first time cooking with ham shanks/hocks (I found them in the frozen section at Whole Foods) – they lend an incredible smokiness to the whole dish since the noodles and seafood are cooked in the broth they produce. Oh and I also couldn’t find “fideos” so I bought angel hair pasta and broke it up into smaller pieces – it worked like a charm! This dish was hearty, smoky, briny (from the olives and clams) and buttery (from the shrimp) – I thought it was an incredibly impressive dish that is just perfect for company. Pair it with a simple salad or make a few other tapas, and your guests will be happy. I promise Open-mouthed smile

Have you ever had fideos? Do you like recreating meals out at home?

PS – If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to enter my giveaway!

Jaleo inspired Spanish tapas dinner

Before I forget, have you entered my Nasoya giveaway? Go do it and then come back, ok?

So let’s talk about eating out. While I really love the whole process of preparing meals at home, from the menu planning to grocery shopping to cooking and finally eating my creation (best part when I see someone else enjoy my food as much as I do!), going out to eat is still one of my favorite ways to spend time with Adam, friends and family. Similarly to cooking at home, I love the whole process of searching for the perfect spot for the occasion, the anticipation of a great night out, then dressing up and finally experiencing the whole event. It is an event, isn’t it? From the atmosphere of the restaurant, to service to the wonderful food shared with lots of wine and laughs – there is so much to experience! There are nights and dishes I remember for years. They are special to me. Most of them I’d never dream of recreating but once in a while I eat something simple yet perfect and I vow to try creating a little restaurant meal right in my own home.

This is one of such meals.

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This dinner was inspired by our favorite dishes from a spanish tapas restaurant, Jaleo, on our trip to Washington DC over the summer. The place was recommended to me by several readers and twitter friends, so one random day, we decided to rest our feet and have a glass of sangria with a few apps at the bar. There was no planning – it was a spur of the moment decision when we stumbled upon the place. I think because we had no expectations, it was especially surprising how much we enjoyed the few bites we had that first visit. So much that we had to go back 2 days later and have a whole meal!

Although every single thing at Jaleo was fantastic, hands down are two favorites were pan de recapte con anchoa (traditional Catalan bread with peppers, tomatoes and salt-cured Spanish anchovies) and gambas al ajillo (the very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic). These are my versions of these dishes.

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For the play on pan de recapte con anchoa, I actually started with my mom’s recipes for perzzi (roasted peppers) and sinii (eggplant/tomato spread) and layered them over fresh slices of baguette, topped with garlic-marinated anchovies. I find the salt anchovies to be very pungent. They are fantastic melted into sauces or whipped into dressings, but I prefer the marinated kind when eaten “straight up.” The anchovies seem to mellow out as the vinegar breaks down some of that intense fishiness.

Aren’t these gorgeous? They were delicious Smile

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Next up, I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Spanish-style garlic shrimp. I love how garlic is used in three different ways in this recipe (to marinate the shrimp, infuse the olive oil and finally to cook with shrimp). I used a dried habanero (much spicier than the cascabel chile that’s traditional) so my shrimp also had a bit of a kick. We like it spicy in these parts Winking smile

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This turned out fantastic! It was hard to not soak up every morsel of that garlicky spicy oil with baguette slices. So simple yet so perfect. I think it would be a fun dish to serve to company too with everyone just digging in straight into the skillet. Smile

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Simple roasted cauliflower to lighten up the fare:

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Are you a tapas fan? Do you ever recreate restaurant dishes at home?

Next up: I’m getting crafty with my super awesome food art project. Can’t wait to share it with you!!

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