Fideos with Clams and Saffron from Top Chef: The Cookbook

Those of you who have visited here before have probably already figured out that I love Top Chef! It's one of my “must see” TV shows of the week. I watch for the drama, the cheesy preening of the Cheftestants, the snarky guest judges, Padma’s outfits, and, of course, the food. The show is in the midst of its fourth season and I can honestly say that I’ve never missed an episode. So when I found out about the recently released official companion cookbook to Top Chef, I had to have it!
For those of you who have recently returned from an extended stay on the planet Mars, Top Chef is only the hottest cooking competition on television. It is an exciting and slickly produced weekly reality show airing on Bravo TV, featuring sixteen aspiring chefs from around the country who compete for the title of Top Chef. Each episode features two challenges. The Quickfire Challenge is designed to test the chefs’ basic knowledge of cooking skills. The winner of each Quickfire is usually afforded immunity in the ensuing Elimination Challenge. The Elimination Challenges are themed challenges where the chefs, affectionately known as the Cheftestants, compete against each other to show their creativity and versatility in the kitchen. Each week a different celebrity chef joins the regular panel of judges to determine who will be asked to “pack their knives and go.”

The winner of the competition receives $100,000 to be used in the furtherance of his or her career, a feature spread in Food & Wine Magazine, a gourmet trip to the French Alps, and a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

The Top Chef Cookbook contains over 100 recipes, as well as cooking tips, interviews, chef profiles, and behind-the-scenes stories from the series. The book is clothed in a white canvas cover inspired by the chefs’ jackets worn by the Cheftestants on the show. Cute, huh? Actually, it is a really sharp-looking cookbook with easy-to-follow recipes and lots of great big colorful pictures. If you’re a Top Chef fan, this book is definitely one to have for your collection. Heck, it’s a great book even if you hate the show!
My first creation from Top Chef: The Cookbook is a dish that I have been dying to try ever since I watched Padma practically lick her plate clean while eating it. I’m talking about the Fideos with Clams and Saffron that the infamous Ilan prepared on the show in Season 2. Ilan, himself, describes it as “one of the most delicious things on Earth.”

The recipe calls for fideos, which is a type of Spanish pasta similar to angel hair. It is very much like vermicelli, and the two are interchangeable in this dish. In Spain, fideos are broken into short pieces and used in place of rice in some dishes. The other main components of the dish are fresh clams, cream, and saffron. The pasta is baked in the oven and then cooked on the stove with the clams, white wine, and tons of caramelized garlic. Then, a saffron cream sauce with tender cauliflower is mixed in and the whole thing is browned under the broiler. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. From start to finish, this recipe only took me about an hour to prepare.

I’m telling you, words cannot adequately describe how wonderful this dish was! The briny saltiness of the clams melded right into the mellow sweetness of the cream sauce, creating taste sensations that were out of this world!

Whether you loved Ilan, hated Ilan, or loved to hate Ilan, you must try his dish. I promise, you won’t regret it. I really think it just might be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted!

If you'd like to have this cookbook for your own, stay tuned for my weekly Top Chef recaps. I will be giving away a few more cookbooks in the coming weeks.

Fideos with Clams and Saffron
Adapted from Top Chef: The Cookbook

1 pound capellini pasta
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons saffron
2 cups cauliflower florets (I lightly steamed mine until crisp-tender first.)
1/3 cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled, but whole
1 pound fresh clams (I used cherrystone clams.)
1/2 cup white wine or seafood stock (I used wine. The clams make their own stock when they cook.)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Break capellini into 3-inch pieces. Arrange pieces in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Heat broiler in oven.

In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream, saffron, and 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk to dissolve saffron. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, stir in cauliflower florets, and set aside.

In a medium straight-sided skillet, heat olive oil and garlic over low heat until garlic begins to soften. Add clams, wine, and capellini to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium and cover skillet. Cook about 4 minutes. Most of the clams should be opened. Remove from heat and discard any unopened clams.

Carefully divide clam and pasta mixture between four ovenproof dishes, filling each about half full. Top with cauliflower-and-cream mixture. Transfer dishes to oven and broil until golden brown.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve warm.

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Peter M said…
Cool, there's a cookbook from Iron Chef. This sounds real easy...bake & eat! I wonder if the recipes are from the contestants...that would a nice thing.
RecipeGirl said…
Well, I've been on the fence about this cookbook and now I think you've talked me into it. Your description of this dish is wonderful. You've "sold" me on it for sure :)
CookiePie said…
This dish is making my mouth water! SGCC - you should be on Top Chef!!!
Anonymous said…
What a gorgeous dish! I mean geez, just amazing looking!
grace said…
while ilan is by no means unattractive, he simply can't hold a candle to the hunka hunka burnin' love that is sam. my goodness.

oh, and nice dish. :)
Anonymous said…
Oooooh, I'm so glad you posted this, I am always itching to try those recipes when I see them (hurray for youtube). Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Helene said…
Your obsession with Top Chef is fine by me :)
The dish looks wonderful, just seeing clams make me happy!
test it comm said…
That clam dish looks good. Nice presentation! I now have 10 episodes of Top Chef to catch up on!!! Good thing it is a long weekend. :)
Heather said…
For what it's worth, I always thought Ilan was kinda hot. Of course, next to Sam he looks like dog meat, but whaddayagonnado.

I have to ask, though, are you getting kickbacks from Bravo! or are you just a fan?
Susan, that looks wonderful! I grew up eating sopa de fideos every Sunday, as a matter of fact. In Spain there is a similar this called fideua which is almost like a paella but with fideos. Beautiful!
Susan @ SGCC said…
Peter- All of the recipes in the cookbook are from the Cheftestants of each season.

The fideos recipe is really easy. I really couldn't believe how good it was!

RecipeGirl- Get the book! It's a fun read. There are also some great recipes and gorgeous pics.

CookiePie- Lol! Thanks, but I'd get eaten up alive!

Noble Pig- Thanks! I'm glad you like it.

Grace- I just did not like Ilan at all. I thought he was a little too smarmy.

Joanne- You're welcome, welcome, welcome! I'm glad you like it. Now, you have to make it! ;)

Tartelette- Thank you! Clams make me happy too. Is that sad? ;)

Kevin- Lol! That's what long weekends are for. Catching up! I'm glad you like the fideos.

Heather- I wish! I tried to contact Bravo months ago to try to get some things for the giveaways, but it is next to impossible to reach a real person. I even got an automated reply to my initial email saying that a real person wasn't going to reply!
Susan @ SGCC said…
Aran- I thought of you when I was making this dish. I wondered if you ever had something like this when you were growing up. I need to find a Basque cookbook. Any suggestions?
Deborah Dowd said…
I remember this dish and Padma's reaction to it! Thanks for sharing the recipe- I am giving it a try!
Anonymous said…
It seems everyone in the US talks about TopChef and everyone in the Uk has absolutely no idea what you are all talking about! Oh well, the recipe looks absolutely delicious so I will take it from you that it is a great show!
Cakelaw said…
This photograph is so good, it makes me ache. I am loving those yellow pasta clams!
Manggy said…
Hey, *I* can believe it's that good, Susan :) I nearly licked the screen!

Things that can't be found here:
1. Fideos
2. That book :/ (maybe it's just a matter of time.) I'm looking forward to other things you make from it!
Anonymous said…
There is a wonderfully concise chapter of Basque in "Our Immigrant Ancestors" by Jeff Smith. I found it used on Amazon for $3!
Astra Libris said…
Mmmmm, saffron and cauliflower... I'm in heaven! Your photos are as gorgeous as the recipe sounds! Bravo!
Amy said…
I've been meaning to make this dish ever since I saw it during season 2. You did a fabulous job! Now I need to get me some clams!

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