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Sep 30, 2013 08:06 PM

October 2013 Cookbooks of the Month, THE FOOD OF PORTUGAL and THE NEW PORTUGUESE: Fish and Shellfish

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the October Cookbooks of the Month:

Fish and Shellfish (The Food of Portugal), pages 167 – 200

Fish and Shellfish (The New Portuguese Table), pages 79-108

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  1. Baked Hake Lisbon-Style, Pg. 170, The Food of Portugal
    Pescada Assada a Lisboeta

    This was a delicious start to October's COTM. Super fresh fish and fresh from the farm main ingredients combined to create Portugal's signature seafood dish, Pescada. I used the alternative to hake, a Captain's Cut thick loin of cod from Whole Foods. I halved the recipe for two people.

    A tomato sauce is cooked first. It consists of fresh tomatoes, green bell pepper, yellow onion, parsley, bay leaf, olive oil, dry white wine, ground cloves, tomato paste, and S & P. The sauce is cooked in a covered skillet for 30 minutes then uncovered and cooked for another half hour.

    For the fish it is recommended to use an earthenware casserole but I used an enameled cast iron one. The baking dish is buttered, the fish is placed into it, and the sauce poured over the fish. Cover the casserole and place it into a pre-heated 350F oven to bake for 15 minutes. Then uncover and bake for a further 25 - 30 minutes. Ms Anderson explains that the casserole is thick and insulates the fish from the heat thus requiring what seems to be a lengthy cooking period. The timing was perfect. After 25 minutes the fish was moist and very tender, the sauce beautifully seasoned.

    As a secondary dish I served a quick saute of Swiss chard. Of course slices of crusty bread made an appearance too. I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      sounds fabulous.....can't wait 'til my library arrives.

    2. Just out of curiosity, do either of these books have a recipe for bacalhau espiritual? I had a delicious version at a restaurant in NYC but I've never run across a recipe that seemed like it would yield similar results, so I'd be interested to know what these two books say on the subject!

      4 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Neither book has that recipe, Biodanonima, but I did find a recipe for Spiritual Cod (Bacalhau Espiritual).
        The ingredients are:
        1 lbs. Bacalhau “salted cod”
        4 cups water
        3/4 cup carrots, sliced
        3/4 lbs. potatoes, chopped
        2 tablespoons olive oil
        2 tablespoons butter
        1 onion, chopped
        1/2 cup bread soaked in 1 cup hot milk
        Salt and pepper to taste
        1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
        1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
        1 cup mozzarella cheese
        1 cup fresh cream
        1/2 cup flour

        1. re: Gio

          Thank you, Gio! I have found many versions online, but nothing that seems like it would turn out the way this restaurant's version did (and sadly, the restaurant has closed). This recipe seems very unlike, actually - there were no potatoes or chunks of carrots in the version I had. Sigh. I may just have to start experimenting and see if I can't figure it out for myself!

          1. re: biondanonima

            Maybe you can describe the recipe you had. I have a Portuguese cookbook with over 50 recipes for bacalhau, but none go by that name. I also have a number of Brazilian cookbooks (in Portuguese). If you can describe what you had, perhaps one of my recipes will match up.

          2. re: Gio

            Actually, The Food of Portugal does have it. Except Jean Anderson has it listed as Enca Melo's creamed salt cod (Bacalhau com nata feito à moda da Enca Melo). Unfortunately, i've seen reviews on epicurious saying the recipe in the book is quite bland. :( Im thinking that the reviewers didn't check the seasoning but im still hesitant to try it.

            Like biondanonima, im looking for a recipe for bacalhau espiritual. I too had it in a restaurant here in nyc. I dont remember there being any carrots or onions in mine either. That being said, its been a while since I had it. All I remember was that I liked it. I wouldn't be surprised if I just didn't notice it as all the ingredients seemed to meld together into creamy deliciousness. I recommend that biondanonima search google images and chooses what looks good. Often the recipes are in portuguese but you can always use google translate and simply do some conversions. Temperature will probably be in celsius but they might not indicate that. This recipe seems popular:
            It even comes with a video so you can follow along. I may try this when I get the time.

        2. Kettle of Fish - The New Portuguese Table, p. 89

          Or rather, kettle of fish and shrimp, both of which came from the local farmers' market. This is meant to be made in one of those spiffy cataplanas, but he says a dutch oven makes a good alternative. It's also one of those recipes where the cooking takes less time than prepping the ingredients. My one deviation was to use half the amount of fish (one pound instead of two) while keeping all else as written, making a saucier but more modestly sized dish. He gives a bunch of fish options, but it's all firm, mild white fish; I used wild Pacific cod.

          Sliced fennel, leeks, and yellow bell pepper go in some olive oil, along with minced garlic (which I upped from the half clove called for) and grated ginger, seasoning, and a bit of fish (shrimp) stock and are cooked for a bit (all the cooking steps happen with a lid on the pot). The vegetables are pushed aside, the fish and cracked pink peppercorns added and buried under the vegetables, and tomatoes and white wine are added. After the fish cooks, shrimp are added and cooked just until pink, and parsley, cilantro (I didn't have), and fennel fronds finish it.

          This is a subtly spiced dish, with just salt, pepper, and the slightly floral pink peppercorns, which really allows the clean flavors of the vegetables and fresh seafood to shine in a lovely way. You're meant to add a spritz of lemon at the table, which I forgot, but it wasn't missed. I served this ladled over the wonderfully tender Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style from Marcella Hazan (RIP), which I also love as a bed for braised dishes, with some biscuits from the freezer alongside. Terrific meal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Kettle of Fish - The New Portuguese Table, p. 89

            I made this a few weeks ago, but haven't had time to write it up until now. The technique is already explained above, so I won't go into detail there. I made it in a cataplana. I used grouper for the fish. The recipe calls for a pound each of two types of fish, but I just used the grouper, along with shrimp. My total recipe was somewhat reduced, as there were only two of us. I made about a 3/4 recipe, and got enough for the two of us, plus some leftovers. I'd say 3-4 servings in all, depending upon how hungry you are.

            This was a really fantastic dish. I have made Leite's clams in a cataplana in the past, and always liked it, but now I have a new favorite for the cataplana. This dish is mild, but the flavors of the vegetables and seafood are very complimentary, allowing both to come through in the most delicious way.

            I served this with mashed potatoes, from the same book, mounded in the middle of the plate.

          2. Combination of Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha p. 192 and Mussels in a Cataplana, The Food of Portugal, p. 194

            I made a combination of these two dishes tonight for dinner, with some modifications. I started by shopping for the clams recipe, so I had everything in the house and was fully intending to make this when I started. Somewhere along the line, I lost my place and started cooking off the second recipe. In any case, the results were delicious and I would make it again in a heartbeat. Here's what I did:

            I started with 4 dozen mixed mussels, manila, and little neck clams. I did not salt when I rinsed them and I was out of cornmeal so I used crumbled bread. Worked just fine.

            For the sauce, I browned a package of pancetta and to that I added 1 red and 1 white onion. When these were soft, I added a yellow bell pepper, bay leaf, garlic, and a 14 oz can of roasted tomatoes, including juices. When this had married, I added 1/3 c. of wine, 1/2 c. of arrabiata sauce (all I had on hand) and I let it reduce to a nice thick sauce. While it was doing this, I went to do something else. When I came back, I picked up my book and found my place, or so I thought. I then added 2 teaspoons paprika (1 sweet, 1 bittersweet), and black pepper. Then I realized my mistake and went back to the first recipe. By this time the recipe was quite picante and I was a little worried it would be inedible.

            Right before dinner, I drained the cleaned mussels and clams, added them to the pan, added 1/2 of a chopped Italian chorizo, a package of TJs ham, also chopped (I don't like smoked ham), and another 1/2 cup of arrabiata and a little more wine. I finished it with parsley and cilantro.

            All I can say is wow! This was fantastic. I encourage all of you to make the same mistakes I did and you won't be disappointed. If you are making this for young kids, you probably should only use 1 or 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, instead of mixed paprikas.

            NB: I used a dutch oven for all steps.

            3 Replies
            1. re: dkennedy

              Mussels (and Shrimp) in a Cataplana, The Food of Portugal, p. 194.

              DKennedy, I like your improvisations! The two recipes are very similar, as befits such a traditional Portuguese dish, and it sounds as if you created a great melange!!

              I made the recipe straight from Anderson's book, and it was absolutely delicious, rich and complex in flavor--as befits a recipe with so many savory ingredients. Anderson's recipe includes 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper and chopped cilantro, but is otherwise like Leite's version. DKennedy describes the ingredients and method clearly above. I used a slice of prosciutto, cubed, along with the chorizo. My paprika was sweet smoked Spanish paprika. David Leite had recommended: "For best results, I suggest buying the sweetest, least bitter paprika--both regular and smoked--you can find." (p. 25, NPT). After tossing in the 2 teaspoons of paprika I worried a bit that the smokiness would take over, but it stayed in the background while giving the sauce a wonderful depth of sweet-smoky flavor.

              The main reason I chose Anderson's recipe over David Leite's version is that it specified mussels rather than clams, and one of my guests is clamophobic. I also used one-half mussels, and one-half large raw shrimp, because I knew that the kids loved shrimp. And now it's time for full-disclosure: I used a bag of frozen-in-the-shell, cooked mussels because my fish-monger did not have any fresh and he recommended a frozen brand that he said was popular with his customers: "Foods From the Sea" brand, from Chile, and certified "Sustainable" etc." I thought, "what the heck; give them a try!" So I popped them in to my new cataplana (along with my large raw shrimp). I would say that they were adequate. Not as succulent as fresh mussels, but tasty enough and fortunately not rubbery. Anyway, nobody complained. I prefer the fresh ones but these were good in a pinch and the richness of the other flavors helped to overcome some deficiencies of flavor and texture. And boy, were the frozen ones convenient!!

              I completely agree with DKennedy. This is fantastic! Redolent with onions, tomato, garlic, pepper and paprika, not to mention the white wine and the shellfish. Everyone, including two children at the table, loved the flavor and spooned up the sauce. And now that I've made my first cataplana recipe, I know that I can add all different combos of shellfish, squid, and firm-fleshed fish.

              My new culinary flying-saucer (otherwise known as a cataplana) performed perfectly and created a stir (heh). Do you need one to cook this dish? No; dutch-oven would be just fine. Does it add excitement when you open it up at the table? Sure does! Is it fun to cook in? Yep. Will it be one more thing to store on my already-crowded kitchen shelves? Of course!!

              Served with Punched Potatoes from NPT, p. 173 (great addition to sop up the sauce) and Green Beans with Coriander and Garlic, FOP, p. 202. I'll review these on the appropriate thread.

                1. re: qianning

                  Thank you, Qianning, It was a fun recipe to prepare and serve. There's always something gratifying about when everyone at your table likes something you've never ever made before! ;-)

            2. Sea Bass with Fennel and Orange, The New Portuguese Table, p. 80.

              This is a beautiful, delicious dish. It comes together in minutes, making it great for weeknight cooking or entertaining. I didn't use sea bass, at least for this first go-round; after discussing its price and the recipe with my fishmonger (adding that it was from a Portugese cookbook) he immediately suggested hake as a substitute, which had just arrived from Georges Bank. So, hake it was.

              Preparation begins by making the sauce: two oranges are juiced, then a third is cut into sections. The sections are combined with a tomato which has been chopped, peeled and seeded, and set aside. The juice is boiled with chicken stock (I used my own) until the mixture is reduced to about half, at which time a cornstarch slurry and thinly sliced fennel are added and cooked for a minute more.

              The sauce is then set aside while the filets are prepared. The recipe directs you to sear them for about four minutes on each side, but my pieces were a little over an inch thick in the center so I decided to decrease the stove-top searing to about 2-3 minutes a side, then pop the pan in the oven (350) for another five minutes or so. They remained golden and crispy.

              Just before plating the fish, the reserved oranges and tomatoes are added to the sauce. It's then spooned over the plated fillets, then garnished with fennel fronds. The hake was wonderful - large flakes, and slightly sweet. And I thought the proportions of the sauce ingredients were perfect - refreshing bites of orange and tomato, with that hint of anise from the fennel. It was just as pretty as the accompanying photograph!

              2 Replies
              1. re: lesliej

                Sea Bass (I used Haddock) with Fennel and Orange, New Portuguese Table, p. 80.

                Lesliej has provided a terrific guide to this recipe so I will not add anything except to say that I concur wholeheartedly with the conclusion. This is indeed a beautiful, delicious dish that is easy yet dinner-party worthy if you so desire. No fresh sea bass was available so I used haddock, which was entirely satisfactory. I liked that I could make the fennel-orange sauce a bit ahead of time and rewarm it when I sauteed the haddock filets just before serving. Everyone liked the delicate, bright flavor of the orange sauce which was agreeably deepened by the fennel-flavoring.
                Just a very satisfactory recipe. Mr. Goblin also loved the few leftovers, gently nuked to rewarm, that we had for lunch. Can't say this about every fish dish.

                1. re: lesliej

                  (Halibut) with Fennel and Orange, The New Portuguese Table, page 80.

                  No sea bass here either, so I substituted halibut. I'm sure it would work on other white fish too. The ingredients and process are well described above, so I'll just share my outcome.

                  This sauce is so lovely. I agree with lesliej that the proportions are perfect; it's really a great combination of flavors. The dish comes together very quickly, then plates up beautifully! Perfect for any night of the week.