By Maria Pereira and Jodi Lewchuk
It’s cheating a bit to include this recipe since it hails from the mainland’s Alentejo region instead of the Azores, but Alentejan-style food is rooted in an agrarian way of life, so similar to that on the islands. Legend has it that this dish came to be because home cooks tried to disguise the fishy taste of the region’s pork (fed scraps from the catch of the day) by adding clams to the stew. The end result is a hearty, rib-sticking dish boasting a rich sauce that soaks into the fried cubed potatoes that are served alongside.
Makes 8 servings
In a large mixing bowl, add the pork, hot pimento paste, garlic, bay leaf and wine; stir to coat the pork well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
Transfer the pork to a colander set over a large bowl; drain well, reserving the marinade. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork in 3 batches, turning occasionally, until it is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Add more olive oil to the pot between batches if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pork to a platter. (If the brown bits at the bottom of the pot start to burn, pour in a little wine to scrape them up.)
Add all of the reserved marinade to the pot and bring to the boil. Return the pork to the pot, reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the pork is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes. If the stew is looking dry, add a little more wine or water.
Meanwhile, in a deep saucepan, heat the lard with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to 375º F. Add the potato cubes in 3 or 4 batches and pan-fry, turning frequently, until they are uniformly browned, 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a plate lined with paper towels.
Increase the heat under the pot containing the pork to high. Add the clams and 2/3 cup of the parsley. Cook until the clams are open, about 10 minutes. Season the stew with salt and pepper as required.
To serve, line the circumference of a large serving platter with the fried potatoes. Pile the meat and clams into the centre, spooning the sauce over all. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of parsley and serve immediately.
Note: Portuguese hot pimento (or red pepper) paste, sold in glass jars, is readily available in many supermarkets and grocery stores (Ferma is a common brand). If unavailable, combine 2 tablespoons of puréed roasted red peppers with a few drops of hot sauce and a generous pinch of salt.