How to get a taste of seaside Portugal this summer—without leaving home

Every late summer/early fall, I publish recipes for New England clambakes and/or Southern seafood boils. This is the perfect time for these dishes that are fun to prepare and festive to consume. Plus they’re the epitome of healthy, balanced, one-pot meals.

This summer, I thought I’d switch things up a little by including a favorite dish among the local New England seafaring communities that originally hailed from Portugal and the Azores.

Of course, I’ve shared some of my favorite Portuguese cataplanas before. These versions of Spanish paellas are delicious and nutritious blends of meat, seafood, rice, and vegetables. But as much as I love cataplanas, I’m a bigger fan of the traditional Portuguese dish known as Alentejana.

Portuguese Alentejana didn’t actually originate in Alentejo, Portugal, as its name would suggest. Instead, it’s native to the Algarve region to the south, where cooks combine pork and clams as a kind of “surf and turf.” Some people suggest the clams were originally added to mask the “fishy” flavor of Algarve pork—because pigs from this Atlantic region were often fed fish scraps, which changed the taste of the pork.

(In New England, Henry David Thoreau [1817 – 1862] even wrote about the fishy taste of milk from cows fed fish heads on Cape Cod, which he also said accounted for the superior clam chowder there.)

For this version of Portuguese Alentejana, steamed clams are mixed with potato cubes, and the pork is sautéed in a tangy pimento sauce. So, I hope you’ll give it a try with family and friends this summer. Delicioso!

Portuguese Alentejana

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil (divided–you use it three times)
  • 2 ¼ pounds boneless pork loin, cubed
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 ¼ pounds clams, scrubbed clean
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled
  • Salt
  • Water
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges (optional)
  • Cilantro/coriander leaves (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, make a thick paste with the paprika, garlic, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Place the pork in a deep bowl. Spread the paprika and garlic paste on the pork and massage it in with your fingers.
  3. Add in the bay leaves and wine vinegar, and cover the bowl. Marinate at least 6 hours—up to 24 hours. (The longer the better. Just be certain to stir the paste and massage the meat every so often.)
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan over high heat. Add in the marinated pork, reserving the marinade for later.
  5. Brown the pork on all sides in a single layer, cooking it in batches if needed. Transfer cooked pork to a clean bowl.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic to the pan, allowing it to brown lightly, about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Pour in the white wine and scrape any bits of the mixture off the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Stir in the tomato paste and the reserved pork marinade. Allow it to cook about 10 minutes.
  8. Add the pork back into the pan, stirring so that the meat is covered in the sauce. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid to allow it to barely simmer for 1 ½ hours, checking occasionally.
  9. Once the pork is nice and tender, turn the heat up to medium-low and bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
  10. Add the clams to the pan, distributing them evenly throughout. Cover and cook an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the clams open.
  11. While the clams are steaming in the pork and sauce, prepare the potatoes.
  12. Cut the potatoes, with skin on, into cubes. Put them in a pot of salted water and boil for 5-7 minutes, or until the outside is cooked but the potatoes are still firm.
  13. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl of cold water to cool, then drain excess water.
  14. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a clean pan over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until golden brown all over and tender in the middle, about 7-10 minutes.
  15. To serve, place a scoop of potatoes in the bottom of a soup plate or shallow bowl. Add plenty of the pork and clams on top, with lots of sauce. Add wedges of lemon and cilantro leaves for garnish.

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