A simple delicious Portuguese appetizer
This appetizer, known in Portuguese as Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, was so satisfying! A few simple ingredients was all it took to create this wonderful and traditional Portuguese dish. It’s sure to make your family and friends salivate every time you serve it. And that sauce! I mean garlic, wine and clams…mmm…am I right?!
You can often find these clams on the menu at Portuguese restaurants, but why not try making them at home too? As far as seafood goes, clams are a fairly inexpensive option.
What does Bulhão Pato mean?
A quick Wikipedia visit tells me that the dish is named after a Portuguese poet named Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato. As far as I can tell, the dish was created in the mid 1800s as a tribute to the poet after he mentioned a cook in one of his works.
It appears the dish gained more popularity than the poet. 😂
This appetizer is ready in minutes… even for food bloggers
I was so excited that I got to eat these while they were still hot. It’s not always the case here. You see, our blog is full of recipes that were actually family meals just moments after their photograph was taken.
We normally write the story later in the day or even the next day, but we have to be efficient with the photography so that we can get the shot and still enjoy a hot meal without making the family wait too long for their lunch or dinner.
We have to time things perfectly. As I’m cooking, Liz is setting up the backdrops, lights, and props. She chooses the perfect plate and sets something in it as a placeholder so she can take some test shots. She adds or removes props and moves things around until she likes the layout and shooting angle. Once the food is ready, there’s not a lot of fussing, so she gets the shot fairly quickly.
In the case of this recipe, Liz had to do all of this prep work well in advance since clams only take a few minutes from start to ready-to-eat-hot. The prep work was worth it and I devoured the clams before Liz even finished putting away the ‘stage’ and equipment.
Tip time: wash, wash, wash the clams!
I can’t stress this step enough. Clams have a lot of sand on them and a rinse is NOT enough. I soaked them in salted water (the salt helps to draw out the sand) for over three hours. Within that time, I dumped the water and added fresh salted water several times. Then after the long soak, I scrubbed the shells with a brush, as I rinsed them under fresh water.
Even after all this, I could still see a few grains of sand at the bottom of the pot where I cooked the clams. This is typical, so after you remove the cooked clams, take care in pouring the sauce over the clams so you avoid bringing the sand with the sauce. Pour slowly and carefully and leave a little liquid behind, just to be safe. Any remaining grains of sand should stay behind in the pot using this method.
A surprise treat for my in-laws
My in-laws love Portuguese food. Last year, before the pandemic, we were at a Portuguese restaurant together and my father-in-law ordered Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. He was quite disappointed because he found the sauce was lacking flavour. He really likes these clams when they’re well prepared.
I made a mental note of that and decided I’d treat him to my version one day. Little did I know that we wouldn’t be able to have a family gathering for a long time.
Since the pandemic started and through various lock-downs, we’ve only used technology and the occasional front-porch visit to ensure we stay connected with family and friends. And so this would be the way I would treat my in-laws now. I took the clams off the stove, packed them up hot and we headed out immediately to try and get them to my in-laws, still warm. We dropped them off at their front door, waved to them from outside, and headed back home while they sat down to enjoy this appetizer. They seemed really happy just to see the family but they were genuinely excited about the unexpected treat. It’s been a really long time since they’ve gone out to a nice meal at a Portuguese restaurant. I was glad to bring the restaurant to them this time.
Seriously craving Portuguese food
I’ve really missed going out to eat in restaurants, in general, over the last 10 months of the pandemic, but I’ve had some serious cravings for Portuguese food more than any other, lately.
For example, two days before Christmas I was chatting with a buddy and he mentioned a much loved cod dish from back home. I had an instant longing for it so I decided to add it to our Christmas dinner menu. So many cravings!
If you’re having similar cravings, longing for traveling and eating out, or you just want to try a simple and traditional Portuguese dish, give this recipe a try. It’s inexpensive, it’s ready in minutes and it’ll definitely make your day yummy! Don’t forget the crusty bread for dipping! You’ll thank me for that.
Happy New Year! Stay safe. Stay healthy. And make today yummy!
- 2 lbs pasta clams (small clams)
- 1/3 cup quality olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic thinly cliced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup after chopped)
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
Soak the clams for a few hours (at least 3) in water and salt to remove the sand. You can also soak them over night.
Change the water 2 or 3 times before using the clams.
Remove the clams from the water and scrub and rinse them well to take off any remaining sand.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes without burning the garlic. Reduce the heat a touch if necessary.
Add the wine and cook for roughly 2 more minutes to reduce the wine.
Add the clams, salt and pepper, 3/4 of the chopped cilantro, and mix all the ingredients well to coat the clams.
Reduce the temperature to medium low and cover.
Let the clams cook for about 5 minutes or until the clams are all open (discard clams that didn’t open).
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a serving dish.
Pour the sauce from the pot over the clams. Make sure to avoid pouring the last few drops of sauce in case there’s a little sand on the bottom.
Squeeze a few of the lemon wedges over the clams and sprinkle the remaining chopped cilantro.
Add the remaining wedges between the clams and serve hot. Don’t forget the crusty bread! Enjoy!
Wash wash wash! We can’t stress this step enough. You don’t want to end up chewing in gritty sand.
Make sure to discard any clams that didn’t open after cooking. They can potentially make you or your guests sick.
We’re not including the soaking time for the clams, since this is non active time.
Having this dish without bread is like skating without skates… makes no sense, right?