Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

In food, there are just certain things that you know go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Brownies and ice cream. Spaghetti and meatballs. The list goes on. These combinations have withstood the test of time, crafted as pairs because of one simple reason: both ingredients compliment each other perfectly. In these pairs, each item is simply just not as good without the other. And while some people may disagree (weird), we generally know these things to be true.

I am going to add one more such pair to your list: pork and clams. I know that it sounds like kind of a weird combination. When I first heard of this dish, I thought that it simply could not work. It would never be as good as some of the time-tested pairs that I mentioned above. But I promise you– and have I ever led you astray?– that this is going to be a combination you will sing praises of, and lick the bowl as you do.

 

Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

 

Porco à Alentejana is a traditional Portuguese dish made with– you guessed it– pork and clams, along with a lot of good wine, some good olive oil, and a bit of planning ahead. I ate it for the first time last summer on a trip to Portugal, in a tiny restaurant where very little English was spoken, the wait staff was friendly and patient, and the food was so good I almost cried.

Really. In public, in front of nice Portuguese people out enjoying a meal, I nearly wept as I ate this meal. The pork was flavorful and aromatic, the clams were touched with the sea, and everything was bathed in this perfect white wine sauce and served with perfect little browned potato bits. I ate everything on my plate that night– every morsel of food, every drop of sauce– and only my last scrap of manners prevented me from licking the last film of the meal left on my plate. It was that good.

 

Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

 

I had pork and clams that night, and again another night, and probably a grand total of four times during the week I was in Portugal. Then, soon after I got home, my brother and I made it yet again. We worried that it wouldn’t live up to the meals we’d eaten in various restaurants across the sea. We worried that we would spend time crafting it only to be disappointed. Thankfully, we were very, very wrong.

Porco à Alentejana is a thoroughly Portuguese dish, but it can be made almost as well in the comfort of your own home– wherever home may be. It may not have the thrill of adventure or the charm of a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but it will still be the same dish and have the same depth of flavor that comes from a recipe that’s been time-tested and well used with love. Plus, you won’t have to worry about making a fool of yourself in front of the locals. So go ahead, lick the plate. You’ll be happy you did.

 

Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

 

P.S. Everyone– sorry for the brief hiatus. I am now back! I can’t make up for lost time, but I can make it a bit easier for you to receive new Fearless Kitchen recipes in real time. We now have a Facebook page called “Fearless Kitchen: a Food Blog” that you can follow to receive updates. Hoorah! Follow this link to find and follow it– you won’t be disappointed.  🙂

 

Porco à Alentejana

For the marinade:

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 teaspoon paprika

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

1 bay leaf

 

For the rest:

2 lbs pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons (about 2-3 cloves) finely chopped garlic

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

24 small clams in shell, scrubbed

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

 

Combine the first four ingredients of the marinade– wine, paprika, salt, and pepper– in a large bowl and mix well. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and cubed meat. Coat the meat in the sauce and marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

After marinating thoroughly, drain the pork and reserve the juices. Discard the garlic and bay leaf. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart pot. When the oil is hot, add the pork cubes, stirring so that the meat browns quickly and evenly. Stir frequently, but not so frequently that the meat does not color– when the meat is ready to be flipped, it should release easily from the bottom of the pan. Also be sure not to overcrowd the meat in the pan and work in batches if necessary. Transfer all browned meat with a slotted spoon to a separate bowl.

Once all the meat has been browned and removed from the pot, pour the reserved marinade into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Scrape off any brown bits left over from the meat. Boil the liquid briskly, uncovered, until the marinade has been reduced to 1 cup, then pour it over the pork.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the pot and when hot, add the onion. Cook the onion for about five minutes, stirring frequently until it is soft but not browned. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and crushed red pepper. Simmer the mixture, stirring constantly, for five minutes.

Spread the clams, hinged side down, over the tomato sauce, then cover the pan and cook over medium-high heat for ten minutes or until the clams open. Stir in the pork and all juices and simmer for an additional five minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately with either roasted potatoes or crusty bread.

 

 


This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge, an event that aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Jules from The Kiwi Diaries.

 

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7 thoughts on “Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

  1. Thank you for this recipe. I’ve never cooked with fresh clams before but love their sweet flavour. My sister and my bestie both visited Portugal last year (separately) and both said that I’d love it. The food sounds glorious. I know what you mean about the fear of recreating a beloved holiday dish at home. Will it live up? I think of it as a way to relive or cherish a memory. The feeling you have when on holiday will never quite be replicated at home, but it’s nice to try.

    The browned potato bits in the original dish. I wonder if it was just pan fried bits of potato to give it texture?

    1. Thanks for such a lovely, thoughtful comment! Eating this dish brings me right back to Portugal, even if it’s not exactly the same. I hope this gives you the opportunity to try a new ingredient and experience a bit of the vacations your sister and bestie had!

      I believe the original potatoes– which were about one-inch squares– were roasted until browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I’m sure pan-frying them would also be delicious!

  2. It sounds beautiful. I’m always a bit scared of cooking shellfish at home but this is a great option to try and maybe one day I will overcome my fear by making something like this for Our Growing Edge as well!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. I often find that shellfish is actually easier tocook than other proteins, simply because it will tell you when it is done! Before starting the dish, discard any clams with broken shells or clams that are open, then follow the directions above for cooking. After the clams have opened, they are fully cooked and ready to be eaten. There may still be some that haven’t opened– they should be fine to eat, as well, but if you want to play it extra safe you can stick to the open ones.

      I hope you get to try cooking shellfish soon! If you do experiment with this dish, please let me know how you like it!

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