This Portuguese Classic was worth the wait…and the time to make it.
I’ve waited for months to cook this recipe. I first saw it on our trip to Portugal in July. We actually never tasted the dish while we were there. Now that we have, I highly recommend it. You marinate succulent pork overnight in lots of garlic, paprika, and cilantro. The next day, you brown the pork is browned and cook it in zesty garlic and wine-based sauce infused with more Pimenton Dulce Ahumado, the Spanish Smoked Mild Paprika. You add boiled potatoes that absorb the flavors of the sauce. Then the crowning glory of the dish: Briny clams pair beautifully—and unexpectedly—with the pork. Yes. Pork and Clams. Who put this Portuguese Surf and Turf together?
Two cookbooks went into making today’s version of Portugal’s own “Surf and Turf”
I had the benefit of actually having two versions of the recipe. In Lisbon, Andrew and I had bought a flipbook called “The Best of Portuguese Food to cook at home”. Published by Zestbooks.pt, we picked it up buying into the books premise of being “ideal for remembering or sharing a little of the Portuguese gastronomic experience”. Of course, the minute I got home, I ordered yet another Portuguese cookbook: “Authentic Portuguese Cooking” (Page Street Publishing 2018.) It was written by Ana Patuleia Ortins, a first generation descendant of Portuguese immigrants. Ms. Ortin’s family came to the States from the town of Galveas which is in the Alto Alentejo province. Her recipe for Pork with Clams Alentejo Style is the one she grew up with. Meanwhile, my little Zestbook didn’t even mention the clams in the dish they called Alentejo Style Pork Fillet or Carne de Porco à Alentejana. And I was so glad to have both. Mainly because Ms. Ortin’s recipe called for making a sweet pepper paste. The recipe for the paste added another 4 days (!) to the making of the dish. And the capper was you only used a tablespoon of the stuff. I am a devoted recipe follower. I forged ahead because the Zestbook recipe didn’t use the pepper paste and the photographs of both versions looked almost identical.
The roots of the recipe were a surprise.
Alentejo is justly famous for its bread, wines, cheeses. A charming proverb says “At the home of a real Alentejo, the table is always set.” Alto Alentejo, where Ms. Ortins’ family came from, is inland from the sea. I had to wonder about Clams being paired with Pork. It turns out the dish isn’t from Alentejo at all. It originated in the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost province which is surrounded on two sides by the sea…and all its clams. The dish takes its name for the meat of Alentejo’s black pigs which are raised on a diet of truffles.
Make this memorable meal once and you’ll make it again and again.
This is no simple weeknight dinner. It requires at a bare minimum several hours of marinating the pork, plus a half hour for bringing the marinated pork up to room temperature. The actual cooking time is only around 40 minutes. And you end up with a glorious one-pot dish that goes into the center of the dining table in all its splendor. After the recipe, a couple of other great Portuguese recipes.
Pork and Clams Alentejo Style
- To marinate the pork:
- 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 1.25 ml (¼ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
- 60 ml (¼ cup) finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
- 1.2 kg (2½ pounds) pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin, and cut into 5 cm (2-inch) pieces
- 237 ml (1 cup) white wine
- To finish and serve:
- 118 ml (½ cup) olive oil, or as needed
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 237 ml (1 cup) peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped tomato
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
- 237 ml (1 cup) white wine
- 24 parboiled baby boiling potatoes (I used 6 Yukon Gold quartered)
- 1.4 kg (3 pounds) small littleneck or steamer clams (see Note), 5 to 7.6 cm (2 to 3 inches) in diameter, about 6 per person, well-scrubbed
- 60 ml (¼ cup) finely chopped cilantro
- Crusty bread, for serving
- Olives, for serving (Optional)
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Note: If using steamer clams, time them for 12-15 minutes. If using littlenecks larger than 2 ½ to 3 inches, allow an extra minute or two to cook.
- Step 1 To marinate the pork: The day before serving, use a mortar and pestle to crush the garlic with the smoked paprika, bay leaf, black pepper, cilantro, and hot pepper sauce. Continue to mash into a paste. Place the pork into a non-reactive bowl and add the paste, coating the meat well. Add the wine so that it just covers the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least several hours, preferably overnight.
- Step 2 To finish and serve: Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking. Reserving the marinade, drain the pork into a sieve set over a separate bowl. Strain the marinade and set aside.
- Step 3 Heat the olive oil in a 36 cm (14 inch) wide heavy bottom pan or cataplana pan, paella pan or braising pan over medium-high heat. Brown the pork in small batches, 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned meat to a dish and cover.
- Step 4 To the same pan, add the onions and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, and smoked paprika. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved marinade. Mix the tomato paste with wine and stir into the onions and tomatoes. Simmer for 1 minute. Transfer the meat back to the pan and add the parboiled potatoes.
- Step 5 Nestle the clams in between the meat and potatoes, then cover tightly. Simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is fork-tender, the potatoes have taken on the flavor of the sauce and the clams are opened, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Set the pan on the table and serve directly from the pan, garnish with finely chopped cilantro. Serve with bread and olives on the side and lemon wedges to squeeze some juice over the dish if desired.
- Step 6