I’m still about three weeks behind in my writing, so hopefully I can remember everything I learned about Portuguese cuisine. I looked up traditional foods and the two things I found were lots of seafood and rich, egg based desserts. Well, that sounds like a great meal!
Seafood is as popular in Portugal as you would expect, since it is right on the Atlantic as well as being close enough to the Mediterranean Sea to have influences from that area as well. A very common cooking technique that is not unique to Portugal, but very popular there, is clay pot cooking. This is a method of cooking using an unglazed pot, which allows flavors and seasonings to infuse the pot and also locks in moisture very well so that the food is tender and flavorful. Being without a clay pot, I decided to make one of the most popular dishes that kept coming up in my research, Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, which is a clam dish. I also made cod fritters, since cod is the most popular fish cooked in Portugal, and improvised an easy egg custard for dessert.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is specifically, clams in white wine, and is a dish named after a Lisbon poet. Any time you cook with clams or a similar shellfish, you should soak them in salted water for a few hours to get all of the sand out. There are few things worse than chewing grit when trying to eat clams or mussels.
This is an important step and you can give the clams a stir and even change out the water once to really make sure you get all the sand out. Make sure to throw out any open or broken ones, and you can scrub the outside of the shells under cold water to also clean off any grit or sand.
While the clams were finishing soaking, I added garlic, onion, salt, pepper and butter into a large skillet. You can also use olive oil, which is probably a more traditional Portuguese choice, but I went with butter instead. Personal choice.
Once the onions have softened you can add the clams and the wine, cover the skillet and let cook over medium heat. Stir or shake the pan every once in a while to coat the clams completely and make sure that all of them cook evenly.
I just spooned them out into a bowl as they opened, and you should throw out any that don’t open, but give them a chance, once some have been removed from the pan.
As for the cod fritters, I rinse a filet and then pulled it apart with a fork to shred it into smaller pieces.
Then I boiled some potatoes and mashed them up, mixing it with the cod and some salt and pepper.
I also added fresh chopped parsley, garlic and onion that I had sautéed quickly in some olive oil.
Once it was all mixed up, I added an egg as a binder, and heated up some oil in a deep skillet. I formed each fritter by using two spoons. It is the easiest way to form them so they stay together and also you won’t make a complete mess.
You basically just keep scooping it back and forth from each spoon to make a oblong fritter and then drop it in the hot oil.
You should have enough oil so that they are completely submerged, but if you miscalculate, like I did, just make sure to turn them so it browns on all sides.
Then, as they are done, just spoon them out with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lines plate.
When the clams had all been removed from the pan, I poured the extra sauce over them and tossed them with some fresh parsley.
Of course, all this had to be served with some thick bread and we had ourselves a country style Portuguese meal!
Finally, the egg custard. Just whisk together egg yolks, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.
I put puff pastry sheets into a muffin pan and filled them with the custard.
Bake until the pastry is cooked and the custard as firmed up just enough that it isn’t runny but it is still a little “bouncy”.
They were definitely not the best desserts I’ve ever made, but they were tasty with a glass of port!
And I ate one for breakfast the next morning and it was also excellent with some coffee.
That concludes Portugal for now, I had Spain next, and if I’m ambitious (not likely, but a girl can dream), I’ll post more than one country since I am about three meals behind in writing.