A Seafood Lover’s Tour—Recipes From Portugal
BORED with beef? Poultry doesn’t pique your interest? Then Portugal is the place for you! This country, you see, is a seafood gourmet’s dream, a gastronome’s paradise.
But fish isn’t your favorite fare? You just might change your mind after you try some of our favorite seafood recipes. Your aspirations aren’t exactly Epicurean? But the accolades you’ll receive from family and friends after they taste these luscious dishes will make you wear your chef’s hat with pride. So get your imagination and tastebuds in gear and join us on a seafood search through Portugal.
Clams, Eels and Bass in the North
The Atlantic Ocean—a thundering symphony of white froth on deep blue—beats against the northern shores. Along the coastline you enter the lagoon district, which is adorned by hundreds of canals and fish ponds. And beneath the mirrorlike surface of the lagoons lurk clams, lampreys and eels.
But, of course, you have to skin eels to eat them. So cut the skin all around the eel’s neck. Then, with a firm hold on the eel, with a cloth peel the skin off like a lady’s stocking. Revolting? Maybe to some. But just think of how delicious eels are when fried or in a stew. And in vinegar they are simply irresistible!
But what’s that sound? Why, we have come upon a fish auction—bidding and offering boxes and baskets, scales and scaly vertebrates. Look at those gorgeous crawling crustaceans just waiting to turn pink and tender in your cooking pot!
Did you get a good deal on bass or perch? Then you have the major ingredient for fried cherne. Want the recipe?
Take six slices of perch or bass (about as thick as your finger). Marinate them in a cup of white wine with a bay leaf, one teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper and a drop of lemon for a couple of hours. Dry them and turn them in flour. Fry them in butter with a clove of garlic till they are golden brown. Enjoy!
The Central Regions—Fish, Fishing Boats and Fish Stew
Salmon and trout jump and spawn in the Central regions. Throw a few bits of bread in the river, and a shoal of trout just might crowd around for the meal. But come dinner and it’s our turn to crowd around the table and feed on them!
Heading back to the coast, we visit the picturesque fishing hamlet of Nazaré. There men with long black caps and checkered shirts, barefoot women in black and even children can still be seen on the beach mending nets—a centuries-old tradition. Perhaps even more impressive are their fishing boats—their stately high-curved prows colorfully decorated with paintings. Sometimes the moon and stars, a staring eyeball, or even a fish, adorn the prow of these graceful vessels.
But let’s now taste the results of this people’s labor by enjoying delectable caldeirada, or fish stew:
Clean and cut one kilo (2.2 lb) of ray, sole, prawn, cuttlefish and mussels. (A variety of almost any fish available can be used.) Heat one cup of olive oil in an earthenware pot and add a large chopped onion, two cloves of garlic and a sliced hot pepper and let simmer till onions are golden. Now add 1⁄2 bunch of chopped parsley, 400 grams (14 oz) of tomato pulp passed through a sieve, a cup of white wine, three cups of water and a little salt. Let simmer for half an hour. Add your assortment of fish and cook the mixture another 15 to 20 minutes. Rub six to eight slices of bread with garlic and place them in another pot for serving. Distribute pieces of fish on top of bread and cover it all with the sauce.
A Visit to Lisbon
Yellow streetcars still brighten this bustling port city. But we are heading for a Sardinhada in the old Alfama quarter. The unmistakable smell of sardines grilled on charcoal betrays the menu right away. To round out the meal we also feast on salad and farmer’s bread. Neighborhood children watch from balconies and low doorsteps as we devour this culinary delight.
You’ll also want to sample bacalhau, or cod, which we affectionately call “the faithful friend.” It is our favorite seafood treat. Here’s the recipe for Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá:
Soak half a kilo (1.1 lb) of dried cod in cold water overnight. Remove the skin and bones. Flake the meat into small pieces. Shell and slice two hard-boiled eggs. Boil 12 whole potatoes till cooked. Peel and cut into cubes. Heat 8 teaspoons of olive oil in a pan and cook two sliced onions till golden brown. Add the cod and simmer it till it is cooked. Add the potatoes and let cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle two teaspoons of parsley on top. Arrange sliced eggs on top and decorate with 1⁄2 cup of black and green olives. Serves four.
But you haven’t seen Lisbon until you have been to a Marisqueira, a seafood restaurant. Take your pick of the lobster, shrimp and clams that arrive fresh from the coastal hatcheries. Wooden hammer in hand, explore the contents of crustacean claws and legs and down it all with cold, foamy beer!
A Tough Choice
The warm coast of Algarve is a study in white—dazzling beaches and cube-shaped, terraced houses, foaming surf and flowering almond trees. So many fish courses are available! Shall it be oysters with lemon? Fried tuna steak with salad and lots of olives? We can only pick one, so let it be stuffed squid!
Has our brief jaunt through Portugal perhaps made a seafood lover out of you? At the very least, we may have given you some fresh ideas to brighten up your dinner table. What will you try first? Fried eel or fried cherne? Salmon or fish stew? Grilled sardines or bacalhau? Any one of them is a delight!