We have returned from a fabulous 10 day trip to Portugal and, to be honest, I have just started to come back to reality and still feel like I am still processing the experience. I am pretty sure I could write a bazillion word essay on the wonders of Portugal at this point but who really wants me to do that? Until I can access my internal editor, I am holding off on even touching the actual events of the trip so that I don't bore you all to tears and scare you away because I really do want to share the wonders of this little gem of a country.
In the meantime, I can share this simple little dish of Ameijoas Com Alho or Steamed Clams with Garlic. In my lifetime, I have eaten my share of steamed clams with garlic but they have almost always been made with olive oil, lots of white wine, tomato, garlic, parsley, maybe just a touch of lemon or sometimes a bit of fresh basil and I love them all and was pretty sure that nobody was going to do anything all that new to a pan full of clams at this point.
|that bread was quite literally dripping with butter. DRIPPING I TELL YOU|
We almost skipped them altogether when we ate at the famous seafood emporium, Cervejaria Ramiro because there were so many other more interesting delicacies to be had but The Kid reminded me that Anthony Bourdin went out of his way to moon over the clams when No Reservations made a visit to Lisbon. I mean, it's not like we don't love clams, I just didn't want to waste valuable tummy real estate on something I can eat at home. We didn't order any lobster or crawfish or anything like that because we can get it fresher and way cheaper here in Toronto but if Mr Bourdin said to get the clams, we were getting the clams.
|a quick shot of our first Ramiro clams before Shack finished off that plate|
Shack was the first to taste them when they arrived at the table and I have to tell you, I was actually shocked at his reaction because he can usually take clams or leave them. He doesn't not like them, he just loves oysters more. I quickly dug in because I realized that if I didn't get a move on there would be nothing left at the rate he was inhaling these things. I am not even sure that The Kid had any but he was so busy bashing away at his "edible crab" that he wouldn't have noticed anyway.
These clams were familiar and brand new at the same time. It wasn't olive oil I was tasting, it was butter. Lots and lots of butter. And more lemon that I am accustomed to. The lemon juice and the butter married to make a beautiful, rich sauce that we eagerly sopped up with huge chunks of buttered, toasted bread. Are you sensing a theme here?
|more clams, more clams, more clams somewhere in Lisbon|
I was also surprised at the addition of cilantro but came to understand that cilantro is widely used here, especially in the south of Portugal and I do love me some cilantro. Upon my return to Canada, I was over the moon to find out that you can buy a couple of types of vihno verde at the LCBO here in Ontario so I don't have to horde the 4 bottles of $2 green wine that I packed in my suitcase. If you can't find it, just use something really dry and crisp and since vihno verde is actually a bit bubbly, you could almost use a dry sparkling as a substitute as well.
|The aftermath at Memoria Restaurant in Obidos|
I am sure that I will get vehement emails from some Portuguese people who will yell at me and tell me that this dish is not authentic and that they do it another way, but this recipe comes the closest to replicating the garlic clams that we went on to consume almost daily for the remainder of our trip, so although I am open to alternate recipes, this one is my keeper.
|these were from a little place we found called Flor Vasco de Gama|
Any day now I will start the onslaught of posts about different aspects of the trip, but for now, I am going to settle in with an ice cold glass of vinho verde, a bowl of clams and a big chunk of Portuguese corn bread from Caldense Bakery and give you this little souvenir.
Portuguese Garlic Clams A La Me
2 lbs small clams (little neck work well), cleaned and rinsed
1 tbls olive oil
4 tbls butter
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
a scant 1/4 cup vihno verde
handful of cilantro , chopped
juice from two lemons
more lemons cut into chunks
Melt the butter and olive oil in a deep pan or pot with a well fitting lid over medium heat and saute the garlic in there for just a couple of minutes - you don't want the butter or the garlic to brown. Add in the vihno verde and turn the heat up to medium high.
Throw in the clams and give the pan a good shake, put the lid on and let them steam for about 7 to 10 minutes, giving a good shake at least a couple of times, until all of the shells have opened. Pour in the lemon juice and add in the cilantro and give them a good stir. Pour everything into a big, shallow serving bowl and return the unopened clams to the pot with a spoonful of juice and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Discard any clams that remain unopened and add the opened clams to the serving bowl.
Serve with fresh bread for dipping in the buttery sauce.
This is also delicious over rice or pasta.