My dad is one of the most difficult people to buy presents for, so when his birthday comes around I was always in quandary as to what to get him. Whatever the present was, he would quickly get bored with it and said present would wind up collecting dust somewhere. So a few years ago, I decided to forego the traditional present and make him a traditional Portuguese dinner instead. I went with Carne de Porco A La Antejana (Portuguese Pork & Clams) and it was an instant hit. Every year since then I've made it for his birthday and he eats it up with much gusto. It's the perfect birthday present for my father and he looks forward to it every year. My dad grew up in a seaside town of Aveiro, Portugal, famous for it's salt dunes. This meal is very popular in that area, especially in restaurants along the beach. Growing up, my family and I would travel to Portugal and we always made sure we had this meal. I've mastered it and it's one of my crowning achievements.
2-3 pounds of pork loin cut into 1-inch cubes
Pork Seasonings (see below)
1 large onion or 2 small onions chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
3 bay leaves crushed
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2-1/2 cups of dry white wine
20-30 mahogany clams
salt and pepper to taste
Pork Seasonings (from Emeril Lagasse):
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
You'll need a large round skillet with a cover. There needs to be enough room for a layer of pork cubes and for the clams to rest on top, to steam and open.
Scrub and rinse the mahogany clams to make sure any dirt on the shells is removed. I like to use an old toothbrush that is set aside just for the purpose of cleaning clams. Add clams to a large bowl of cold water and set aside. A good way to get clams to release their sand is to add a splash of white wine vinegar and a few dashes of salt to the bowl of water.
Mix the seasonings together to make a seasoning blend. Season the pork cubes with the blend and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.
Heat some olive oil in the large skillet. Brown the pork cubes in batches, 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside pork in a bowl covered with tin foil.
Sautee the onions, garlic and bay leaves in the skillet until the onions start to get translucent but are not fully cooked. Add the tomato paste and slowly incorporate the dry white wine. Make sure you deglaze the pan to get all the lovely brown bits from the bottom and mix the liquid thoroughly so the tomato paste is incorporated well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Slide the pork cubes into the skillet and cover. Cook for 1 hour at low-heat.
Remove cover and add the mahogany clams by placing them carefully over the pork cubes. Make sure any raw clams with open shells are discarded. Cover the skillet and cook until all the clams have opened. If there are any clams that haven't opened after 20 minutes, discard those. When cooking with clams, assume that there will be a few clams that you will throw away. Mahogany clams are the best type of clams for this dish because they have little to no grit.
Sprinkle parsley over the top, serve hot and present in the skillet.
This dish is best served with fried cubed potatoes.