Sunday, May 23, 2010

NOODLES: A COCK-AND-BULL STORY


“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” was Steve Winston’s last word after the E&J Gallo Winery threatened him with a law suit if he didn’t immediately stop selling the imported Gallo brand of fideo noodles. Steve and his wife, Sharon, run The Spanish Table, retail stores and web site, specializing in foods and wines from Spain. Gallo translates as “cock,” as in “rooster.” And as in “cock-and-bull story.”

The product that had come to the California wine giant’s attention was Pastas Gallo fideo and fideuá. “We had been selling them for over a year at our stores in Seattle, Berkeley, Mill Valley and Santa Fe,” said Steve.  “I told E&J Gallo’s representatives that these little bags of pasta, which come in two thicknesses, #1 and #2, had importance to our reputation as a source of special foods from Spain.”

Steve said he had no argument with trademark protection—The Spanish Table is a trademark holder. “Our issue is whether specialty food retailers should have access to legitimate, established foreign brands. The Spanish Table offers customers genuineness: genuine flavors, authentic brands. Pastas Gallo met that criteria.

“No matter what I told E&J Gallo Winery’s attorneys, they continued to plunge forward, filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Fresno, California (their home turf) and serving me with twenty-one pages of legal documents.”

As Steve’s legal fees mounted, he decided to settle the lawsuit, agreeing to, nevermore, sell Gallo brand fideo noodles in the US. “But I refused to disclose the name of the importer I bought the pasta from and I refused to keep the settlement a secret,” said Steve. "Cock-a-doodle-doo."

And, on the other side of the pond.

Perhaps I should put in a call to the the legal department at Pastas Gallo in Barcelona, for I just discovered, on the shelves of my village supermarket in southern Spain, several labels of E&J Gallo wines. (Who would pick California wines in Spain, at inflated prices, with such a fabulous selection of Spanish wines?) Maybe the pasta company should sue the winery to prevent encroachment on their trademark in Europe. Then, again, maybe the pasta people would just as soon not get involved in this cock-and-bull story.

Talking Noodles

In Spain, pasta talks Spanish (or Catalan) and the word is fideos (fideus in Catalan). Fideos are thin, round noodles, the sort you might put in chicken-noodle soup. They range in thickness from threads of angel’s hair to spaghetti-like cords.  Fideuá sort of means “noodled.” It’s the name of the pasta dish cooked all in one pan.

Spanish fideo noodles, like Italian pasta, are made of durum wheat and water, rolled, cut and dried. But they are cooked quite differently than Italian-style pasta. For one thing, the dry pasta is first toasted in olive oil. Next, instead of cooking the pasta in a pot of boiling water, then saucing it, the fideos cook right in the sauce, soaking up the flavors, much as rice is cooked in paella.

When I make fideuá, I buy Gallo brand of fideos. I prefer the sort that's cut in short lengths, with a pin-hole through the center. But, no need for contraband product—you can substitute vermicelli noodles or thin spaghetti, broken into short lengths.

I like to serve fideuá for a dinner party. Much of the preparation can be done in advance, then everything cooks in one pan (a paella pan, cazuela or very large skillet) that goes directly to the table. If you like, add vegetables such as peas, zucchini or green beans to the fideuá.

Fideuá
Seafood Pasta Paella


Prepare the fideuá in three steps—first the stock, then a sofrito, or fried tomato base, and finally, the pasta and seafood. Both the stock and sofrito can be made in advance and frozen. Cuttlefish or squid gives a lot of flavor to the stock, so is essential. Add “trash” fish or shellfish (such as tiny crabs) and any shrimp shells and fish heads.

Serves 6.
 
For the stock:
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 to 12 ounces cleaned cuttlefish or squid, cut in pieces
shrimp heads and shells
fish heads and trimmings
1 tomato, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery
parsley stems
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedge
10 cups water

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and sauté the pieces of cuttlefish or squid for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp heads, fish trimmings, tomato, onion, celery, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon and water. Bring to a boil, skim, then cover and simmer 1 hour until cuttlefish is very tender.

Strain the stock through a colander and reserve it. Pick out the pieces of cuttlefish or squid and reserve them. Discard remaining solids.

For the sofrito:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine

Heat the oil in a skillet or cazuela and sauté the onion, pepper and garlic until softened, 10 minutes. Add the tomato and fry 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and wine and simmer until sauce is thickened, 20 minutes.

For the pasta and seafood:
1 ½ pounds monkfish fillets
1 pound mussels
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 jumbo shrimp in their shells
1 pound #2 fideos (or spaghettini broken into short lengths)
1 cup sofrito
2 teaspoons pimentón (paprika)
cooked cuttlefish reserved from stock
½ pound small clams (such as manila clams)
¼ pound peeled small shrimp
5 to 6 cups hot stock
salt to taste
alioli to serve (optional) (recipe for alioli)

Cut the monkfish into 2-inch chunks. Salt it lightly and set aside. Scrub the mussels, put them in a deep pan with ½ cup water. Cover and cook on a high heat until mussel shells open. When cool enough to handle, remove empty half-shells and discard them. Sieve the liquid and add it to the stock. Reserve the mussels.

Heat the oil in a paella pan, cazuela or large skillet. Add the unshelled jumbo shrimp and sauté them just until they turn pink, about 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the fideos to the pan and fry them on medium heat until they are golden.

Stir in the sofrito and pimentón. Add the cooked pieces of cuttlefish, the monkfish, clams and peeled shrimp. Add 5 cups of hot stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let the fideos bubble gently. Stir in the reserved mussels. Arrange the whole shrimp on top. Cook until the fideos are tender, 12 to 15 minutes, adding additional stock if necessary. The fideos should be very juicy, but not soupy. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve with alioli, if desired.

4 comments:

  1. Fascinating story. Would like to buy some Gallo noodles and make this dish.

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  2. It seems Gallo wines think they own the name worldwide.
    Gallo is a rooster in spanish, maybe Gallo pasta should sue Gallo wines.
    I use gallo wines for cooking, I will never give my guest that to drink.
    Steve you were brave by fighting them off,enjoy gallo pasta with a good spanish wine.

    esmeralda

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  3. MMM... I get too hungry reading this blog. Great reporting!

    Elaine

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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