From Paul Canales: Building Community by Gabrielle Myers, photography by Stacy Ventura
Chef Paul Canales describes his cuisine at Duende Restaurant and Bodega as “Spanish inspired.” But with family roots in Catalunya (the northeastern part of Spain), this master chef has a special interest in the traditions of that region. Thus, fideuà is often on the menu.
In Catalunya, this paella-like noodle dish is typically made with seafood, but at Duende, Canales turns fideuà into a creative space for showcasing the Bay Area’s best seasonal produce and meats (he loves the Liberty Duck from Sonoma). For instance, in summer, Duende staff might make fideuà with cherry tomatoes, and in early fall, fresh figs could be a feature. In this winter version, Canales uses dried figs.
The ingredients for this recipe (or reasonable substitutes) can be procured almost anywhere, but to test the dish in proper style, we visited The Spanish Table in Berkeley for a 30cm paella pan (the two-serving size). There we found the Spanish picual or arbequina olive oils Canales recommends, manzanillo olives, and fideos, the base ingredient for this dish. “Fideos” is the Castillian spelling for the Catalan “fideus,” but either way, it’s a very thin pasta that’s broken up into small bits (or the elbow fideos Canales used when we photographed). One might try instead capellini, angel hair pasta, or really, any pasta shape that appeals.
One of the many special touches in Canales’s duck version of fideuà is the cracklings, which are made from the skin of the duck pieces called for in the recipe. Like many enlightened East Bay chefs, Canales tries to use every part of the animal, so here he uses the duck skin and also the bones for stock. An intrepid home cook might emulate Canales by buying a whole duck, using the carcass and wings to make stock, and saving leftover components for subsequent meals or a repeat of this one.
Canales says the dish takes less than 20 minutes to assemble, but that assumes many parts are prepared before launching into the final effort. One do-ahead item is the allioli. This mayonnaise-like sauce is basically the same thing as aioli. (“Aioli” is the Provençal Occitan spelling, “allioli” is Catalan, and it’s “alioli” in Castillian.) More to the point, as Canales says, “The allioli should be noticeably garlicky.”
Yields 2 hearty servings
For the toasted fideus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fideo noodles
For the duck meat and cracklings
1 duck leg
1 duck breast
For the sofrito
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped (Including liquid, you should have ¼ cup.)
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, toasted and pounded to a powder
For the fideuà
3 cups homemade poultry broth, warmed to a simmer (or substitute half low-sodium canned chicken broth)
5 manzanillo olives, pitted and quartered
½ cup duck cracklings (from reserved skin, see method below)
2 cups lacinato kale, destemmed, sliced, and loosely packed
6 dried figs, halved
For the salad
1 cup radicchio, very thinly sliced
½ cup arugula
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons allioli (see recipe at right for 1 cup)
To toast the fideus, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over high heat. Add fideos, and when the pasta begins to sizzle, lower heat to medium and cook, stirring continuously, until the noodles are deeply golden brown. Remove to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
To prepare the duck meat, remove the skin from the duck leg and breast and set aside for the moment. If the breast is bone-in, debone and use the bones for making stock. Simmer the duck leg in poultry stock until tender, cool, pick the meat off the bones, and set aside. Prepare the duck breast by boning and scoring and set aside separately.
To make the cracklings, place duck skin in a small saucepot, cover with water by 2 inches, and bring to the boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking skin until all water has evaporated and skin begins to sizzle. Continue cooking in the fat until crispy. Keep the heat low and stir regularly, scraping the pieces from the bottom of the pot with a spatula as necessary. With a slotted spoon, remove the cracklings to a plate lined with paper towels and reserve. Save the fat remaining in the pot for another use. (It can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or in the freezer indefinitely.)
Preheat oven to 450°. If using a convection oven, preheat to 400°.
To make the sofrito, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 30cm paella pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic with a generous pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add the tomato and continue to cook until the tomato begins to dry out and form a residue. Add the saffron, lower the heat, and briefly stir to incorporate.
Add the toasted fideus to the pan and stir to coat thoroughly with the sofrito. Then raise the heat to high and add all of the stock. Fideuà is not stirred during cooking, so it is important to taste the liquid in the pan at this point in order to adjust the seasoning. It should taste very well-seasoned, but not over-salty, since the flavors will concentrate as the fideuà is baked.
Add the duck leg meat (not the breast), dried figs, and olives. When the contents of the pan have reached a boil, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Then scatter the kale over the pan and carefully place pan in the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
While the fideuà is baking, season the duck breast with salt and cook in a small sauté pan over medium heat for approximately 7 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 minutes more, and then remove from heat to a plate until ready for final assembly.
To prepare the salad, place radicchio and arugula in a small bowl, season with salt, toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and set aside.
When the fideuà is finished baking, return the pan to the stove and place over high heat to boil off any remaining liquid. When the contents of the pan begin to sizzle, lower heat to medium and let the fideuà develop the socarrat (characteristic crust). This will take approximately 2 minutes. While the socarrat is developing, slice the duck breast, reserving the juices.
To serve, scatter the cracklings over the fideuà in the pan and arrange the duck breast slices in a circular pattern, seasoning each slice with salt. Then place the radicchio and arugula salad in the center of the pan and add a generous dollop of the allioli. Bring the pan to the table immediately and serve directly onto warmed plates.
Makes 1 cup
2 cloves garlic, mortared with salt
1 egg yolk
¼ cup vegetable oil, such as grapeseed or safflower
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Place the garlic and egg yolk in a medium mixing bowl and stabilize the bowl on the counter with a damp kitchen towel. Begin whisking in the vegetable oil drop by drop until an emulsion is formed, then drizzle in the remaining vegetable oil and all of the olive oil,