Posted by: acooksca | 01/27/2014

Pork and Clams Alentejo Style

Pork and Clams Alentejo

Pork and Clams Alentejo

Sausalito, just 2 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, has a sister city in Portugal. Like Sausalito, Cascais is a waterside village that historically supplied seafood, boat repairs and a quiet escape for a vibrant city (Lisbon, in this case).  Lisbon today has two bridges across its Tagus River, one an intentional replica of the Golden Gate Bridge and the 1996 Vasco da Gama Bridge which you might swear the new San Francisco Bay Bridge is patterned after.

This traditional Portuguese dish marries pork in a lively marinade with fresh clams. We were urged to order it by the owner of a 14-seat bistro not far from Cascais, “my wife makes this specialty of our area better than anyone” he bragged. It turned out to be a surprisingly balanced combination of flavors and a favorite dish that we now make for guests. Begin the dish a day or two ahead so the pork can marinate.

This recipe is adapted from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite and is one of the many delightful stories and recipes you will find in that book.

At least one day ahead, marinate the pork:

2 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder)

1 tablespoon each sweet paprika

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons red wine

4-5 peeled garlic cloves

1 ½ tsp. tomato paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 sprigs each cilantro and flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon piri-piri or other hot sauce such as Sriracha

1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons regular)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place all marinade ingredients except the oil in a processor and chop until blended. Scrape down sides of work bowl and, with the motor running, drizzle in the oil to form a paste.  Toss the pork pieces with the marinade and cover well. Let rest 24-36 hours in the refrigerator.

Cooking the dish, start 2 hours before serving:

½ cup plus 1 cup white wine

4-6 tablespoons olive oil as needed for browning

1 yellow onion, chopped

4-5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled (if using Russets or other tough-skinned potato, peel them)

3 pounds small, live clams

½  cup fresh cilantro leaves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the marinade from the pork cubes and blend with ½ cup white wine to form your braising liquid.  Pat the pork to dry. Heat a large heavy pot over medium-high until hot. Adding oil as needed, work in batches to brown the pork cubes on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove to a plate. If the bottom of the pot turns very dark add a little water, scrape and discard the residue.

Lower the heat to medium, add a splash of oil to the pot and cook the onion to soften, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Return the pork to the pot, add the reserved marinade, bring to a simmer and cook covered in the oven for 1 to 1½ hours, until quite tender. Add water as needed if pork begins to stick, but keep liquid only half way up the meat so the pork doesn’t boil and toughen.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes and cut into 1-inch dice. Toss with salt, pepper and a little oil. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.

Soak the clams in several changes of fresh water for 10 minutes each time. Scrub  any grit from the shells and discard any clams that have broken shells, are unusually heavy (they contain sand) or don’t close up when tapped.  When the pork is tender, place cleaned clams in a medium sauce pan with 1 cup white wine. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook just until the clams open, 5-7 minutes.  Remove the clams, discarding any unopened ones. Strain the wine-clam juice into the pork pot. Stir and taste the broth, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Heat four large bowls. Divide potato cubes, pork chunks, clams and broth between the bowls. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve at once.

For more information on Portugal see the post Road Trip Portugal:

The New Portuguese Table by David Leite is widely available at stores and on Amazon.



  1. Fun article, Karen. A question about the recipe: When braising the pork, is it 1-1 1/2 hrs? Looking forward to making it!

    • Yes, indeed. Thanks for the proofread, I corrected that timing.


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