Where does the time go? March Break is over and the weekend is coming to a close but we’re not ready for it to be over. Even though the kids didn’t do much this past week, they had a great time relaxing, playing video games, watching movies, and just chillin’. I remember those carefree breaks; just with way more time spent playing outside (you know…the pre-You-Tube and Xbox era).
Although we had a busy weekend, we managed to squeeze in a traditional meal and share it with you here. This delightful dish is one that both Nelson and I are very familiar with. Growing up in Portuguese households, our moms made this dish on certain occasions. For me I remember it around Easter and Christmas. It’s also pretty common in most Portuguese restaurants. Whether you’re from the islands or continental Portugal, everyone seems to be familiar with this one.
This was Nelson’s first attempt at making this dish. He started with his mom’s recipe from the hand-written book of recipes she made for him, but he made some slight modifications here and there. Well, I’ve gotta say, I may be bias, but I think Nelson nailed it. OMG… the perfectly fried potato cubes…the tender cubes of pork…the clams (clams are not my favourite, but you’ve gotta have them if you truly want to experience this dish)…and the sauce…oh that sauce! I particularly love the sauce poured over the fried potato cubes—ketchup’s got nothing on this.
Carne de porco a Alentejana loosely translates to ‘pork meat in the style of Alentejo’; a region in South Central and Southern Portugal. I assume since this dish is named as it is, that it derived from the kitchens of this region. Well, all I know is that it’s delicious and I should thank someone. And now that Nelson knows how to make this, it can’t be the last.
Although Nelson was really organized and he timed everything well, this recipe requires a few steps. It’s not a quick weeknight meal, but if you’re willing and you’ve got some time, it’s well worth it in my opinion.
Dig into your roots and find a traditional meal that rekindles a memory or creates a new one…and always eat well, friends.
- 2.2 Lbs or 1 kg pork loin, cut in 1 to 1½ inch cubes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbs pimento paste (we use sweet, but you can substitute for hot if you want a little kick)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 2 Tbs pork fat (you can substitute with vegetable oil or even duck fat if preferred)
- 2.2 Lbs or 1 kg clams, thoroughly washed to remove the sand
- 1 onion medium sized, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tomatoes medium sized, peeled, seeded and chopped (plum, hot house or field are fine)
- 1½ white potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Vegetable oil to fry the potatoes (this could very depending on the pot you use, adjust accordingly), we used 0.4 gallons or 1½ litres.
- ½ cup pickled vegetables
- ½ cup black olives
- ¼ cup cilantro for garnish
- Lemon wedges for garnish
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the paprika, 2 two minced garlic cloves, pimento paste, white wine, salt, pepper and cloves. Add the bay leaf.
- Add the meat to the bowl and mix well to make sure the meat is covered with marinate.
- Cover and place the bowl with the meat in the fridge for a minimum of three hours or over night.
- In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil.
- Add the potatoes and let boil for 5 minutes.
- Pour the potatoes into a colander.
- Move the potatoes to 2 layers of paper towels to dry. Set aside.
- Place a large pot on the stove and heat vegetable oil to medium high.
- In another large frying pan, heat 1 Tbs pork fat on medium high.
- Using your hands, squeeze out the marinate from the pork cubes over the marinate bowl and place the pork cubes on a dish.
- Lightly pat down the pork cubes with a paper towel.
- Place the bowl with the marinate in the fridge.
- Sear pork cubes (in two batches if necessary to avoid over crowding). About 8 minutes per batch.
- Add the marinate over the meat and let cook on medium high for 7 minutes.
- Scoop out the meat and sauce into a bowl and set aside.
- Add remaining pork fat to the same wide pan and heat to medium high.
- Sauté onions for about 3 minutes.
- Add remaining garlic to the pan and continue to sauté until the onions are translucent.
- Add the tomatoes and let cook for about 5 minutes, mixing occasionally.
- Add the pork cubes and marinate back into the man and mix well with the tomatoes, onions and garlic.
- Cover and let cook on medium for 8 minutes.
- Uncover, distribute the clams evenly over the pork, cover and let cook until all the clams open wide. This takes about 10 minutes.
- While the clams are cooking, add the dry potatoes to the hot oil in the large pot.
- Fry the potatoes until they achieve a nice light golden colour and are cooked through.
- Place the fries on a dish covered with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
- Sprinkle a little salt over the potatoes and set aside.
- Uncover the pan with the clams. If they're not all open, cover and let them continue to steam.
- Once all the clams are open, transfer the pork and clams to a large bowl, leaving behind only the sauce.
- Add the fried potatoes, black olives and pickled vegetables to the meat and clams.
- Mix gently and transfer to a large serving dish.
- Pour the sauce from the pan over the pork and clams.
- Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges. Serve hot! Enjoy.
Make sure to wash the clams very well to get rid of all the sand. One common trick is to soak them in water with salt for two hours. I just rinsed mine quite a few times.
Use vegetable oil or duck fat if you can't find pork fat.
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