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Fideos Secos (Mexican style noodles)
SERVES 4 TO 6 AS A MAIN COURSE, OR 8 TO 12 AS A FIRST COURSE
ACTIVE TIME: 1 HOUR
START TO FINISH: 1 1/2 HOUR
FOR THE SAUCE
1/2 pound tomatoes (about 2 small)
2 dried árbol chiles, wiped clean and stemmed
1/4 pound tomatillos (2 to 3), husked and rinsed
4 guajillo chiles, wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded, and deveined
2 ancho chiles, wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded, and deveined
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1-inch) piece canela (Mexican cinnamon)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon fine salt, or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 to 6 cups chicken stock
FOR THE NOODLES
1 pound fideo noodles or thin spaghetti, such as capellini or spaghettini
1/2 cup mild olive oil or vegetable oil
2 pasilla chiles, wiped clean and stemmed
10 large sprigs cilantro
6 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley
6 large sprigs mint
1 (3-inch) piece canela (Mexican cinnamon)
FOR THE GARNISH
4 ounces queso fresco or ricotta salata, crumbled (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup Fresh Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)
1/4 cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche, or sour cream, thinned slightly with water, if necessary, for drizzling
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 cup pork chicharrones (or chorizo), crumbled
MAKE THE SAUCE
SET the oven or toaster oven to broil and preheat. Alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 500°F. If you’re using the oven broiler, position the rack 8 inches from the heat source. Core the tomato and cut a small “X” through the skin on the opposite end. Put the tomato, cored side up, árbol chiles, and tomatillos on a foil-lined baking pan, and roast, turning over the chiles frequently until they’re brown with some blackened spots, about 8 minutes. Continue to roast the tomato and tomatillos until the tomatoes are blackened and cooked to the core, and the tomatillos turn a khaki-green color, turning the tomatillos over once halfway through, 20 to 30 minutes. Slip the skin from the tomatoes.
SOAK the guajillo and ancho chiles along with the toasted árbol chiles in enough cold water to cover until they’re softened, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water.
BLEND the chiles, tomato, tomatillos, onion, garlic, canela, cumin, oregano, salt, and sugar in the blender jar with 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock until the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding any solids. Set the sauce aside.
PREPARE THE NOODLES
BREAK the noodles (wrapped in a cloth so they don’t scatter all over) into 2- to 3-inch pieces. If you have a very wide pot, break the noodles in half.
HEAT the oil in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot set over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry the whole pasilla chiles in the oil, turning once or twice until puffed and crisp, about 1 minute total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When cool, thinly slice the chiles crosswise and reserve them for garnish.
WORKING in about 4 batches, fry the noodles in the same oil, stirring and turning constantly with 2 flat-bottomed wooden spoons (or tongs) so they fry evenly, until they are a reddish-golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer the browned noodles to a large bowl lined with paper towels to drain.
REMOVE all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the pot, if necessary, then carefully pour the sauce into the pot (it may splatter). Fry the sauce over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of the chicken stock, then add the fried noodles, stirring briefly to coat them with sauce, and bring the liquid to a boil.
TIE the cilantro, parsley, mint, and canela into a bouquet with kitchen string and drop it into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer the noodles until they are tender and have absorbed the sauce, about 10 minutes. Discard the bouquet of herbs and canela.
Serve the noodles in soup bowls topped with all the garnishes, including the fried pasilla chiles.
The cooked noodles keep for up to three days in the refrigerator. Put them in a baking dish with a little chicken stock to moisten them, then cover with foil and rewarm them in a 350°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.