Carne de Porco à Alentejana is a traditional recipe from Portugal, made from a combination of pork, wine, paprika, clams, and black olives, and typically served with roasted or fried potatoes. When a reader first suggested I tackle this dish, I was floored by the seemingly odd ingredients list; but much like Chicken Marbella, the offbeat ingredients mixed together perfectly to create a unique taste that’s more than the sum of its parts.
While the name might lead you to believe that this dish originated in the Alentejo region of Portugal, it’s actually from Algarve (the Southernmost point of the country). Legend has it that chefs in Algarve gave the dish this name to let diners know that the pork was from Alentejo-raised pigs, who were fed acorns and had a flavorful meat. At the time, pigs in Algarve were fed fish scraps from the burgeoning canning industry, and was not considered very tasty. Some argue that the addition of clams to the dish was a way of masking any “fishy” tasting pork.
Mohinga is a Burmese rice noodle soup not unlike many other rice noodles soups found in Southeast Asia, like Pho and Laksa. Mohinga is unique in that it uses a catfish soup stock and it’s typically served for breakfast.
There are many variations of this dish out there, but the most common versions usually include chickpea flour (which I omitted since it’s legume-based) and banana tree stem (which I wasn’t able to find in my area). The fish used to make the stock is often pan fried and added to the soup upon serving. To replace the chickpea flour and pan-fried fish, I used crushed up fish and rice fritters, which was my recipe from last week. It ended up being a very good decision.
My buddies at US Wellness Meats recently sent me a box of goodies to cook with, so for the next few weeks you’ll see some of their products popping up in my recipes. I couldn’t be happier – everything I’ve tried from this place is downright awesome.
When eyeing their Alaskan scallops, I knew some sort of pork needed to be paired with it, but I couldn’t decide. Bacon-wrapped scallops? Done to death. Sausage? Maybe. Both? Now we’re talking. So I whipped up one of my rare “thin-air” recipes – which are actually pretty hard for me to do, since I love recreating traditional recipes more than anything.
This dish only uses a few ingredients and seasonings on purpose – to hone in on the natural taste of the scallops, sausage, bacon, and kale. I also kept the portions a little small, so this dish is perfect for a light, tasty, and slightly messy lunch.
Have you been to Alex Boake’s blog yet? It’s pretty awesome. She complements each of her unique recipes with beautiful illustrations in place of photos, and each illustration carries a great sense of motion and impeccable placement. After a bit of gushing about her work, she offered to do a recipe swap – wherein she makes one of my dishes and draws it, and I make one of her dishes and take pictures of it. I thought it was a great idea.
I decided to try and tackle her Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict recipe (also known as Eggs Atlantic, Eggs Hemingway, and Eggs Royale). I thought it was a fun gourmet dish to try for a weekend brunch, and I liked the idea of using a portabella mushroom cap to replace the standard english muffin typically found in this dish. The red bell pepper also adds a hint of sweetness not normally found in the dish, which was great. I only made one adjustment to her original recipe, and that was to add a little white vinegar to the water I used to poach my eggs – a trick I learned while working at a breakfast restaurant many years ago – the acidity helps to make sure the eggs don’t break apart during the poaching process.
Chowders get their name from the French word “chaudière” (kettle, pot), which in turn is derived from the Latin “caldāria” (cauldron). There’s quite a rivalry regarding the white, creamy New England Clam Chowder and the clear, tomato-based Manhattan Clam Chowder – in fact, a bill was introduced into the Maine legislature in 1939 attempting to make it illegal to add tomatoes to clam chowder.
Here’s another interesting fact – it wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council during the 1960s that Catholics were permitted to eat meat on Fridays (the abstinence period has been reduced to Lent now). To provide a seafood option to Catholics, restaurants across the country served clam chowder on Fridays, and the tradition remains today.
Creating a hearty, traditional wheat-free chowder is quite a challenge, since they are usually thickened with flour or soup crackers. Using starchy russet potatoes would naturally thicken the chowder, but also leave you with disintegrated potatoes. And then it struck me: I can cook the chowder using sturdier red potatoes, and thicken it with potato starch – leaving us with the best of both worlds.
Here in the United States, mussels have a bad reputation as being a “lesser” shellfish. I happen to disagree. True, they may have a less intense flavor than clams or oysters, and they sure like to turn into a rubbery / chewy mess with a quickness, but with the right amount of care you can make something remarkable. And to top it all off, mussels can be found for relatively cheap compared to their more popular cousins.
This preparation is a Provençal (SE coast of France) dish. The “à la marinière” part of this dish translates to “mariner’s style”, which is when shellfish is prepared with white wine and herbs. Although the white wine really enhances the mussels’ taste, I like to think that it’s the butter and cream that really do the trick. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Maryland crab cakes are a little different from what you may be used to. They’re made with a smidgen of bread crumbs (or sometimes crushed crackers) which give them a slightly spongy consistency, unlike many of the hard-packed crab cake balls I’ve seen elsewhere. Also, Maryland crab cakes don’t have any onions in them; they’re basically just huge piles of crab meat.
Here in Maryland crab cakes are either fried or broiled, and I prefer the broiled method. I’ve seen a lot of recipes which call for baking then broiling the crab cakes; however, the internal temperature of a crab cake should be 160 degrees, so this method doesn’t seem very practical. I imagine it’s hard to guess the perfect temperature while a crab cake is being broiled at 500 degrees. Instead, I’ve chosen to broil the crab cake first to get the right crispiness, then bake it until it reaches the right temperature.
Lastly, for the bread crumbs I used Udi’s gluten free bread, which is made with tapioca starch, rice flour, and potato starch. I lightly toasted two slices of bread (this is a great use for the heels) and then blended them in my Magic Bullet. Worked perfectly.
My parents came out to visit last week, and it’s become a tradition that they ship out some dungeness crabs from the West coast every time they visit. Personally, I think it’s a wonderful tradition.
Steaming dungeness crab is a delicate process, since most of the flavor comes naturally from the crab itself; instead, you want to season it lightly to complement the crab’s distinct taste.
Satay is a dish that originated out of Indonesia. It’s basically just marinated, skewered, grilled pieces of meat. It’s most commonly found with chicken or beef, but like Japanese yakitori, you can find all sorts of weird varieties as well if you look hard enough. This is my shrimp version.
The most critical ingredient for this dish is turmeric, which gives the meat its yellow coloring. It’s somewhat hard to find but you’ll only need to get a small container, because a little bit goes a looong way.
My shrimp pasta – called “seafood pasta” at the house – has been a dinner staple for several years. I make it using the same methodology as my chicken alfredo recipe…but with seafood.
For the pasta, we’ve been using De Boles penne pasta, mostly because we haven’t found any other brand of rice pasta in our local markets. It’s not bad, but it is really hard to get a good, consistent level of tenderness. If we happen upon any other brand I’ll be sure to pass on the results.