Tex-Mex Chicken Fideo

Funny name for a one skillet no-fuss family dinner.  Fideo is a Tex-Mex dish that was frequently prepared in my home when I was growing up.    We ate this each week alternating the vermicelli pasta with alphabet shaped pasta. Seriously!  I can already hear my cousins laughing as they read this.  This was a staple at my grandmothers home where she prepared fideo without chicken and served it as a side dish.  Numerous family members would arrive at her home, during their lunch hour, to enjoy her large family style meals five days per week.  It was always the best meal in town.   I find it interesting that this iconic dish is rarely found on restaurant menus.  When my friends request it they'll often ask for "that Mexican spaghetti dish".   I'll always remember two important tips that my grandmother emphasized to prevent mushy fideo:  thoroughly brown your fideo when sauteeing,  and after reducing to a simmer never stir the dish.  

Tex-Mex Chicken Fideo

Servings: 6-8

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, extra for seasoning chicken

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, extra for seasoning chicken

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1  7.5 oz package fideo pasta, (vermicelli)

1/2 onion,  (1 cup) chopped

1/2 bell pepper , (1/2 cup) sliced

4 garlic cloves, ( 1 Tablespoon) minced

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

1/2 bunch cilantro, (about 3/4 c loosely packed) coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer chicken to a plate and reduce heat to medium.  Leave the drippings in the skillet.

3. Add the dry fideo pasta to the skillet, and stir to coat with the drippings.  Sauté until browned, frequently stirring and evenly spreading the pasta, being careful not to let it burn, 2-3 minutes.  

4. Add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and cook until fragrant 1-2 minutes.  

5. Pour the chicken broth and tomato sauce into the skillet and give it a quick stir.  Add the peas, cilantro, salt, black pepper, and cumin and stir.  Arrange the browned chicken thighs in a single layer in the seasoned broth.  Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer.  Make sure the fideo is cooking on very low heat and resist the temptation to stir while simmering, over stirring will produce mushy video.  Simmer until the pasta is tender to the bite, but still firm.  Serve warm.