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Carne de Porco à Alentejana (Portuguese Pork and Clams)

Hoca

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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.

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Serves four

2-3 lbs pork loin or shoulder, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp each paprika and black pepper
~50 live clams (about 2 lbs)
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
4oz sliced black olives
1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped


In a ziploc bag, combine the chopped pork, garlic, white wine, bay leaves, paprika, and black pepper. Marinate the pork for at least 2 hours, but up to 4 hours. At the same time, rinse and scrub your clams, and soak them for 30 minutes; drain and rinse.

Once the pork has marinated, squeeze out the marinade and reserve for later. Remove the pork and let it sit on some paper towels to dry a little.

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Heat up a large, deep skillet or dutch oven on med/high heat for a few minutes. It’s important that the skillet is very hot when you add the pork. Add the oil or ghee and heat until shimmering. Add the pork and pan-fry until it browns and develops a bit of a crust on it, stirring every few minutes.

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This is the color and texture you’re looking for – browned and crusty. It should take about 5-6 minutes altogether. Next, stir in the marinade and clams, and bring to a simmer. Cover and steam until the clams open, about 5-10 minutes.

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When the clams have opened, remove the skillet from the heat, garnish with sliced olives and chopped cilantro, and serve with roasted potatoes.

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