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Jun 4, 2009 09:49 AM

Portuguese vinha d'alhos recipe?

My father-in-law is turning eighty soon, and we would like to prepare a few Portuguese dishes for his birthday party. He fondly remembers his mother's pork vinha d'alhos, which is a braised (I think) pork that has marinated in wine, garlic and some hot pepper. Does anyone have a tried and true recipe for it? There are several on the internet, and I'll certainly wing it if I need to, but thought I'd ask here first. Thanks!

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  1. Bear in Madeira, carne vinha d'alhos is usually braised first, then fried and often served with fried bread (sometimes broa), potatoes, so on. But its a receipe which has spread throughout Portugal, to the other islands like the Azores... and to the Portuguese dispora where variations are made based on the ingredients. So you might want to find out a bit more about how your father in law liked to enjoy it.

    For an idea of the Madeirense version, take a look at this page:


    To be honest, what looks more foolproof is the version written in Portuguese which I can translate if that is where you are headed. I believe the book by Jean Anderson lists a madeirense version which you could probably get from a library or perhaps find online and that should also be foolproof.

    Here is a version from another cookbook author which is more along the lines of what I have had from folks from the Azores, where the pork is browned first, then braised and served with cooked potatoes sometimes added into the broth.

    Personally I would consider this recipe a bit complicated, I would normally use the marinade as the cooking liquid with more wine or water as needed. Use at least the bay leaf and possibly some of the other seasonings during the marinating process. In the Boston Area you can buy "portuguese seasoning" in Stop and Shop instead of what she uses, which has paprika, all spice.

    One big factor for all of these recipes is the time you leave it marinating.

    BTW if you use mostly wine and bit of vinegar, its possible to reduce the sauce down (not too much or two fast, or you will get balls) and instead fry the potatoes to serve with it to get a different but related receipe (add pickled vegetables, olives). For a braised vinha d'alhos, I would definitely encourage avoiding pork loin (which in portugal could stand up to it, but here is very dry). A Pork butt (some defatting of the broth in the azorean style may be needed, you can use the seasoned fat to fry in the madeirense version) or picnic are fairly foolproof, a fresh ham makes a nice dish and has a nice texture, plus picks up the seasoning a fair bit, but its harder to get tender but not dry and you need to pay more attention braising it. Demoulas carries pork neck bones (meaty) which can be a nice addition. For a quick version loin is useful because you can just drain and fry it (it will braise as it releases liquid). And even the shoulder meat cubed can cook faster than you expect it too (braising in the oven is one option).

    1. Omg, I love vinho d'alhos! I rarely see any talk about it let alone a recipe on chowhound. I live in a largely Portugese populated community, and have for almost my entire life, lived in the Bay Area of Norther CA. There is vinho d'alhos at almost every bbq you go to.
      I'd never heard of it, and let me tell you, it's truly an experience and wonderful stuff!

      An additional benefit, is that my aunt married a Portugese man, and they gave me the family recipe, and I love it. I also have Portugese friends that make this wonderful dish, and so I also use some of their recommendations as well, and over the years, have come up with my own version. But this is really really close.

      The way we make it is not by braising. It is either by frying or on the bbq. Depending on the cut of pork you're working with. Some use thin pork chops, and others use the cut up chunks. Either way, the garlic and wine, are truly heaven, and just about the best thing you could get between two slices of sweet french bread.

      Here's one way.
      A huge 5lb pork butt cutt into cubes (bone in)
      Make a marinade of olive oil, oregano, parsely, red pepper flakes, garlic (fresh and a lot of it) salt and pepper, white wine/red wine (table wine is fine) fresh lemon juice.


      Dry white wine or red wine 1 1/2 cups
      3 cup of water
      juice of 2 lemons
      1/3 cup olive oil (or use vegetable)
      5-7 garlic cloves minced
      2 medium white onions - sliced very thin into circles
      4 T parsley chopped
      2 bay leaves
      2 T oregano
      2 T red pepper flakes or 4 dried chiles (pepper flakes are better)
      2 T paprika
      1T salt or to taste
      2 T pepper
      In a large glass bowl or container, mix all the ingredienets, cover it all, and let it marinate in the fridge at least overnight. Longer is better.
      Then when its ready. Take the lid off, smell, the aroma is intoxicating!
      Drain the liquid, into another container, I've never saved it, but that 's up to you.
      With paper white towels, blot dry the meat.
      Get out the cast iron fry pan, the bigger the better.
      Add oil to the pan about 1/2 inch, let it get good and hot, look for the shimmer.
      Then add your meat with tongs, careful not to overcrown the pan. (now is when you want a splatter screen)

      Meanwhile, take a glass casserole dish, line the bottom with a coulple layers of paper towels.
      Fry the meat, make sure to cook but don't overcook. Then place into the casserole dish. Put the lid on and keep warm in the oven. Fry all the meat, and then add the french rolls the top of the dish, open them up, and layer them on top of the meat.

      When your ready to eat, serve the entire dish with a big scoop like spoon.
      Pile the meat on the rolls and enjoy!
      this is great with a simple green salad, and a glass of wine. Let me warn you this is rich!

      to make pork chops, marinate the same way, bbq and serve with sides.
      Truthfully, the fried marinated pork on french rolls is by far better!

      1 Reply
      1. re: chef chicklet

        What's nice about this is that after you fry the pork, by laying the rolls (opened) on top of the meat, place the cover back on, the rolls steam and get ooooooohhhhh so soft.
        The flavor will also permeate the meat. I don't use any condiments, but you can use what ever you want I guess.

      2. Wow, itaunas and chef chicklet, I am humbled by your wonderful responses. I wasn't really hopeful about anyone being familiar with vinha d'alhos, never mind the depth of your responses. I will take some time to look through the links, and talk to some of my father-in-law's close relatives to see if they can help to remember what he ate when he was young.

        Itaunas, his family is from the Azores, so it would probably be safest to go in that direction. Chef chicklet, I was only guessing about the braising based his very vague loving descriptions of his mother's dish, so maybe that's the wrong direction to go in. The recipe sounds amazing.

        Itaunas, I do live in the Boston area, so I have access to local Portuguese markets. My son and I just made a delicious Portuguese fish stew for dinner tonight, using vinho verde, piri-piri sauce and locally made chourico from Cambridge markets, so we have access to some ingredients. Any suggestions on a good wine for the marinade?

        Again, thanks so much for your generosity and help.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bear

          My information is coming from Portugese from the Azores, and Lisbon. And my other friends I couldn't say what part of Portugal, but it seems rather like the same marinade from all areas. By the way, my uncle, has passed away, they were in their 80s when they left us, so this is his mother's recipe. I'm sure you will find plenty of new recipes or take offs from this, since well it is rather unhealthy. Oregano is used a lot, along with piri piri. Oh don't get me started on piri piri!

          1. re: bear

            bear a local Portuguese club uses Gallo jug wine, so its not the most important component. And for my own cooking its convenient sometimes to use the Gonsalves cooking wine from the supermarket (white and light-red varities). In the Azores sometimes Vinho de Cheiro is used (made from an American hybrid grape), but due to EU politics there is some prohibition about it being sold and its not that common (some dry Brazilian wines maybe similar as the grape is planted there and it gives sort of a concord grape taste I think). So keep it simple, cheap, and avoid heavily oaked wines. Casal garcia vinho verde or another Portuguese white if you want it drier... inexpensive spanish white. If you want to go Rose... Atlas liquors has started carrying a Touriga Nacional based rose (its a bit boozy at 14%) which previously I only saw on the South Coast for a bit more body, although I might drink that and use the cheaper Protocolo Spanish Rose. Gonsalves has a red wine vinegar in supermarkets, although I prefer the Regina brand (from Accardi & Sons) sold in Italian markets... or use Cider Vinegar.

          2. So, I did a trial run the last night. I used semi-boneless country-style pork ribs, and made both recipes. I let them marinate for three days. I decided to go with a braise for both, since I seem to remember him talking about how tender the pork was.

            Both recipes were delicious! To do a taste-test with both red and white wine, I used vinho verde for Ana Potuleia Ortin's, and a simple Portuguese red table wine for chef chicklet's. I think we'll go with chef chicklet's recipe, and use Ana's braising technique. Both recipes were great, but the sweet spices like allspice and cinnamon in Ana's recipe were a little prominent (I may have gotten carried away!) and I'm worried that the family might not enjoy the flavor. They are not adventurous eaters! Boy did the house smell amazing while it was cooking, and the pork was succulent and really flavorful with a rich, tangy tartness.

            We ate it with a chourico rice pilaf that my son whipped up, and some braised kale. (My son and I actually put the kale and pork on some Portuguese rolls, and added some piri-piri...great sandwich!) My husband really enjoyed it, too. As usual I was running late so didn't have time to fry any. I'll do that with the next batch, but think I will braise first and then pan-fry.

            Great tip on warming the rolls on the savory pork steam, chef chicklet. Mmmm....

            itaunas, we were able to get some vinho de cheiro. I'm pretty sure it was at Prospect Liquors in Central Square, Cambrige. I'm excited to toast my father-in-law with some Azorean red, with vinho verde for the white drinkers. I was a little worried that the Concord grape flavor might be too strong, so I used Arcos do Rei red Portuguese table wine from Martin Brothers for the marinade. Simple, decent wine, and only $3.99/liter! Not bad.

            We are having the party this Saturday, so I just cut up about six pounds of pork butt and it is happily marinating in the fridge in it's garlicky, winey bath.

            Thanks so much for your help, and let's hope it brings good memories back to this wonderful eighty-year-old man!

            1 Reply
            1. re: bear

              Oops, sorry. I should have said that Prospect Liquors and Martin Brothers are in Inman Square, Cambridge, not Central Square.