M went to Portugal many years ago and still cannot stop talking about Pork with Clams, the popular signature dish of the Alentejo region. I enjoy pork and I love clams but these two items together just didn’t resonate with me. That is, until I tried it.
I discovered a cookbook called Piri Piri Starfish one day when we were at the treasure trove of cookbooks, Kitchen Arts and Letters, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. We make frequent trips to this mecca of over 13,000 cookbook titles and never leave empty-handed. This particular book, however, did not make the day’s final cut for I don’t remember what reason.
Unavailable in the United States, this book by Tessa Kiros features the cooking of Portgual. In addition to excellent recipes and beautiful photographs, the book also serves as a travelogue and a wonderful introduction to the Portuguese kitchen.
I surprised him with this for his birthday and he surprised me with…Pork with Clams.
We have made this exactly as it appears in Tessa’s book (delicious) and have also lightened it up with a few variations. Instead of pork shoulder, we have substituted pork tenderloin, a less fatty cut that requires a shorter cooking time, 30 minutes as opposed to the 75 for the pork shoulder. Also, instead of frying the potatoes in oil, we have simply added them to the pot ten minutes before the clams.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to serve it with a chunk of crusty peasant bread to soak up all the delicious sauce.
Pork with Clams
from Piri Piri Starfish- Portugal Found, by Tessa Kiros
1 pound, 7 ounces small clams in shells
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound, 5 ounces pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1 /2 inch thick cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 ounces white wine
juice of half a lemon
1 pound, 2 ounces potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 heaped tablespoons chopped cilantro
1. Clean and rinse clams. Drain and leave in colander.
2. Heat oil in a large wide pan and add pork. Saute over high heat until golden and a bit crusty on both sides. Season with salt and pepper and add the onion. Continue to sauté until onion is soft and golden, then add the garlic and cook until you start to smell it. Add the wine and let it bubble up and thicken slightly.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, put a lid on the pan and simmer over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, turning the meat a couple of times. Add a little more water if necessary – there should be some slightly thickened sauce in the pan.
4. Add the clams and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up high, put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes until the clam shells open. If they haven’t all opened, put the lid back on and give them another chance for a few more minutes, then discard any that will not open.
5, Meanwhile, parboil the potatoes for 5 minutes in boiling water, drain well and dry with a paper towel. Fry in plenty of olive oil until crisp, sprinkle with coarse salt and serve immediately.
6. Check the seasoning of the pork and clams, stir in the cilantro and serve.