Portuguese Pork with Potatoes and Clams opened our eyes to the goodness of pork butt cooked without smoke.
When immersed in any kind of project it’s often hard to step out and see the big picture. That definitely happened to us with Cheater BBQ–our foray into exploring new methods for making great barbecue with liquid smoke. We got so carried away with the liquid smoke (an all-natural product, BTW) that we completely ignored all the great pork recipes that don’t use any form of smoke.
Relax about the smoke already! Our eyes and minds are now open to the possibilities.
We got schooled in Rhode Island with a classic Portuguese recipe called Porco Alentejana (Alentejo is a region in south central Portugal). Rhode Island’s Portuguese lineage has made the dish popular there as well.
In this dish the pork is combined with some of the classic barbecue seasonings. Wine replaces cider vinegar to give it an acidic punch and there’s still plenty of garlic and classic dry rub ingredients. The only thing missing is the smoke! And we loved it. Even better, the pork is paired with potatoes and clams. It’s interesting to note that many clam recipes are seasoned with a little salty pork and this recipe completely turns that on its head. It’s pork flavored with briny clams. And potatoes go with everything.
First, we cooked pork butt Cheater BBQ style in the slow cooker without the smoke until it was pull-apart tender. You can prepare the pork in advance. When it’s time to start dinner, place the pork and juices with the cooked new potatoes in a Dutch oven and heat it all up together. When the stew is bubbly add the clams, cover, and cook until they pop open. Garlicy, tangy pork, creamy potatoes and briny Rhode Island clams.
If you want to include a Portuguese/healthy green component to the stew add cooked chopped kale to the meat and potatoes.
All this dish needs is a big green salad and a cold, crisp old world white wine.
Portuguese Pork with Potatoes and Clams (Porco Alentejana)
For the Pork:
1 1/2 cups dry white wine like Portuguese Vinho Verde
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with a knife
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 to 4 pounds pork butt
Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours or on high 4 to 6 hours or until the pork is fragrant and pulls apart easily. Shred the pork into bite-size pieces. Cover and refrigerate if using later.
For the potatoes:
1 pound small new potatoes
1 pound chopped fresh kale (optional)
Cook the potatoes covered in salted water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are tender. Drain and allow them to cool slightly. Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces, as needed. Cook the kale in salted water in a big pot until tender.
Put it all together:
24 small clams, rinsed in cold water and purged in cold salted water with a spoonful of cornmeal for about an hour
Chopped parsley, cilantro, or green onions
Place the meat in a large Dutch oven. Stir in the potatoes. Cook over medium heat until the stew is very hot and bubbly. Uncover and add the clams. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the clams pop open, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, cilantro, or sliced green onions. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Makes about 8 servings.