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Portuguese dinner

Updated: May 6

Great dishes to celebrate the gastronomy of Portugal


açorda de marisco is my favorite comfort food dish from Portugal

We lived in Portugal for an extended period in the early 1990s and continue to return there on a yearly basis.  Apart from enjoying the Old-World charm that Portugal still possesses, we delight in continuing to learn more about the gastronomy and viticulture of this country every time we visit.  As often as we can we try to leverage this knowledge by recreating some of these classic Portuguese dishes at home.

 

For me, the cuisine of Portugal comprises simple and fresh ingredients from the sea (octopus, sea bass, cod, etc.) or the countryside (goat, suckling pig, roast chicken, etc.) that are beautifully prepared, even in the most unlikely, off-the-beaten-path locations.  The wine of Portugal is also world-class, and the US is one of the top three export markets.  Having said that, I suspect many Americans would not remember the last time they tried a wine from Portugal.


pastéis de bacalhau

I do not think there is a more emblematic ingredient that contributes to the cuisine of Portugal than cod (bacalhau) - usually salted cod that is reconstituted for use in numerous traditional dishes. In fact, it is said that there is a Portuguese cod dish for every day of the year!  One of our favorite Portuguese snacks is cod fritters (pastéis de bacalhau) and these are ubiquitously served as an appetizer at many traditional tascas (local neighborhood eateries, usually casual or rustic).

 

Two of my preferred salted cod dishes include bacalhau com natas, which is basically a creamy and cheesy scalloped potato dish with cod, and bacalhau à brás, which is cod scrambled with egg and potato sticks (or straws), and features olive oil over the cream and cheese.


bacalhau à brás

When one thinks of chorizo, or a highly seasoned pork sausage, it is usually presumed to be a Spanish product.  But the Portuguese share a border with some of the best Spanish pig farms and have become equally specialized in producing very good chouriço.  We recently discovered a very tasty way of cooking Portuguese pork sausage by flame broiling it (using alcohol) in a ceramic dish – called chouriço bombeiro.


chouriço bombeiro

My favorite Portuguese comfort food is açorda de marisco, which is described as a bread soup (but it’s really mashed bread) comprising copious amounts of garlic and coriander, olive oil, water, salt and mixed seafood (or just shrimp, called camarão), into which a raw egg is scrambled and served piping hot.  I vividly remember the first time I enjoyed this dish. It was on the coast during a semi-frigid day that could not be warmed by the sunshine because of colossal great waves pushing cold Atlantic air at our restaurant.  The depth of this dish warmed me over more than any fireplace could have, and I will never forget the feeling.


arroz de pato

It is not often that you see duck of any form on a menu in Portugal, except maybe in white tablecloth restaurants.  It certainly is not a staple of the typical tasca, except in a rice dish that is not unlike a paella from Spain, but with shredded duck instead of seafood or chicken. This dish, called arroz de pato, involves poaching the duck and using the poaching liquid (which is strained) to cook the rice.  The duck is then further cooked separately in vegetables, chouriço and spices, removed, shredded into the rice with the chouriço added to the top with black olives.  This dish rivals açorda de marisco as a favorite comfort food during frigid evenings or afternoons with inclement weather.


double dipping of our favorites: pão com chouriço and pastéis de nata

But when I visit Portugal, and particularly the Lisbon area, what I look forward to most is a visit to the al fresco produce market, followed by a breakfast of Portuguese baked goods, which usually accompany a good Portuguese coffee.  This treat will include pão com chouriço and pastéis de nata.  The former is a hot bread roll of medium density filled with Portuguese sausage, usually best straight from a clay oven.  The latter is an egg custard in a crisp pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon.

 

Bom proveito!

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