(Oct. 4, 2019) Inspiration comes in many flavors and one should take advantage of every bite.
In addition, if originality is to flourish, one must be willing to explore new recipes and forgo the comforts of daily specials.
Porco a Alentejana, a popular Portuguese dish that consists of pork, clams, paprika and potatoes, brings the fruits of the sea and the goodness of the land to a perfect balance. Aromatics and vegetables are nurtured until a luscious stew develops.
The following recipe is an adaptation of Porco a Alentejana. The traditional recipe calls for the pork butt to be marinated for a few days before cooking the actual stew.
This recipe forgoes the marinating process and cooks the pork by itself in homemade chicken stock.
The richness of the stock will add depth of flavor and allow one to easily remove any impurities and grease that develops during the cooking process.
Once the pork is cooked, it is then combined with the customary ingredients and simmers until the flavors have a chance to come together.
As with Porco a Alentejana, the seafood is added at the last minute.
Homemade stock is the key to this dish and is very easy to make. Place chicken backs in a pot, add enough water to cover them and simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours.
When the stock has cooled, strain it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. After the stock has been refrigerated, it will have a gel-like consistency.
It is important to note that some chefs prefer to remove the liver attached to the back and some choose to keep it. The liver will impart an “earthly” quality to the stock and this choice is up to the individual cook.
Once the pork is cooked, combine the homemade chicken stock with some of the pork stock.
A heavy abundance of pork stock can overpower the brininess and tenderness of the clams. The ratio of chicken stock to pork stock is 2:1.
In addition, I have added mussels and colorful peppers for extra flavor and a more festive presentation.
Braised pork and clams are comfort food at its best. This stew has modest roots which adds to overall appeal.
A garnish of fresh cilantro pops the beautiful colors and adds to the presentation. Warm, crispy bread and a glass of vino completes this delicious dish.
Cooler weather is around the corner and if one gets the urge to try something new, consider braised pork and clam stew. Enjoy!
Braised Pork and Clam Stew
5 to 6 pounds chicken backs
4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
1 cup dry white wine
8 cups reserved chicken stock
4 cups pork stock
juice of 1 lemon
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 poblano peppers, stems removed, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 large orange and yellow peppers, stems removed, seeded, and cut into thin strips
2 stalks celery, finely sliced including the leaves
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, seeds removed, and crushed by hand
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
3 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
few pinches saffron (optional)
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper seeds
2 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried, crushed rosemary
2 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons of ground, roasted cumin
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced
3 pounds little neck clams, scrubbed
1 ½ pounds mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh cilantro as a garnish
lemon wedges and crusty bread for serving
1. Place chicken backs in a large pot and add enough water to cover the bones. Simmer for 2 ½ hours, occasionally skimming for any impurities.
When the stock has cooled, strain through a fine sieve with cheese cloth and discard the bones. Set aside 8 cups of chicken stock for the braised pork and clam stew.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a large Dutch oven, add the remaining chicken stock to cover the pork. If you do not have enough chicken stock, add water. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until pork is fork tender.
4. Remove Dutch oven from the oven. Remove meat and pour stock into a bowl. Using wet paper towels, wipe the inside of the Dutch oven clean.
5. Add the pork, 8 cups of chicken stock, 4 cups of pork stock, and the rest of the ingredients, except for the seafood, cilantro, lemon wedges and bread to the Dutch oven and simmer in the oven until the potatoes are cooked thoroughly, about 30 minutes.
6. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place on top of the stove over medium heat. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add clams and mussels, cover, and cook just until they start to open, about 3 to 5 minutes.
7. Garnish with fresh cilantro, lemon wedges and crusty bread. Serve immediately.
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