4.20.21 Dinner in Lisbon: A WPK Throwback Special
Sonhos de Bacalhau with Spicy Olive Garlic Aioli
Literally translated to “cod fish dreams”, this is just one of the fabled 365 recipes for dried salted cod fish (one for each day of the year). Traditionally, sonhos are desserts made for Christmas, a fried dough that is of Turkic origin and popular throughout the Balkans and North Africa. Legend has it that their circular shape represents the rising sun. Our version is savory, focusing on the salty flavor of the bacalhau and olives. (Contains milk, eggs, fish, gluten)
Caldo Verde, or “green broth,” is a ubiquitous appetizer for just about any occasion. In fact, it was named as one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Cuisine in 2011, and that’s no small feat given Portuguese eat more soup than any other country in Europe. It originated in northern Portugal as a basic, comforting meal of pureed vegetables, sausage, and collard greens, but is now eaten all over the country and the world. It’s even established itself in the Portuguese literary and musical cannon (check out Uma Casa Portuguesa on our Spotify)! (no gluten)
Febras with Roasted Red Peppers
Portuguese are obsessed with pork. Along with seafood, it’s the backbone of the diet, present in everything from breakfast to dessert. Febras is a loose term for a thin chop, typically from the shoulder but we’ve decided to use pork collar; fat is flavor. Historically, every family would slaughter a pig once a year around Christmas and then preserve the meat for the rest of the year. One way of doing this is with...wine and garlic! In fact, the marinade called vinha d’alho is so ubiquitous that it’s the most common meat marinade. If you have any leftovers, put the febras on a toasted roll and grab a beer - you’ve just made a bifana, the late-night meal of choice for Lisboetas! (Contains gluten)
Who says Portuguese food isn’t healthy!? Unlike other cuisines, Portuguese salads aren’t made to be eaten before the meal but rather as a side with your main course. The acidity is a perfect complement to richer meals and our version is typically served in the streets of Lisbon during the St. John Festival. (No gluten; vegan)
Paprika Roasted Potatoes
While the Portuguese consume more rice than any other European nation, potatoes are a close second when it comes to starches. This dish, now as common as bread, is a relative newcomer to the national gastronomy. The two main ingredients, potatoes and smoked paprika, are both native to South America and were introduced to Europeans by the Portuguese sailors in the late fifteenth century. These potatoes are perfect to soak up the sauce from the Febras. (No gluten; vegan)
Pasteis de Natas
No Portuguese meal is complete without a Pastel de Nata, a dessert so important to the national cuisine that Jeronimos Monastery, its place of origin, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prior to the expulsion of religious orders in 1820, monasteries and convents would use egg whites for starching clothes and clearing wines, leaving an abundance of egg yolks for a menagerie of confectionary delights. The original recipe was passed down to an enterprising businessman who founded “Pasteis de Belem” in Lisbon in 1837, and the rest is delicious history. These treats are the biggest export of Portuguese culture worldwide and have influenced desserts globally, especially in China, Japan, and Korea (egg tarts anyone?)! (Contains milk, eggs, gluten)
Available at Arbor Farms
2017 Prazo de Roriz, Douro - $18
This is a truly exceptional wine, with a pedigree centuries in the making. The Douro Valley in northern Portugal has historically been renowned for Port wines, although high-quality dry table wines are becoming ever more popular. This bottle is produced by Prats & Symington - the Symington family has been producing port wine for centuries and today own more than 16 different brands, 27 estates, and are the largest producer of Port wine in the world. In 1999, they formed a partnership with with the Prats family from Bordeaux and began producing the most acclaimed dry table wines from the region (Chryseia was the first non-fortified wine in Wine Spectator’s Top 100, reaching #3 in 2011).
This Prazo de Roriz is produced in the Quinta de Roriz (which also makes Vintage Ports) and uses hand-picked grapes that are manually sorted. Douro wines are typically blends of several indigenous grapes, and this one is no different - 35% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, and 20% various Port blends. It’s incredibly smooth, with the tannins balanced by notes of ripe black fruit, cherry, cocoa, and baking spices that pairs deliciously with the febras.
I’m the son of Portuguese immigrants who settled in Newark, New Jersey, so Lisbon being one of the first meals at The White Pine Kitchen is personal. Normally, our histories and backgrounds will be more objective, but I owe this one to those who got me here and to the culture and cuisine that made me who I am. So bear with me. In my opinion, what makes Portuguese food exciting - although it is canonized now - is it was perhaps the first truly global diet. And while the Portuguese didn’t “discover” any of the ingredients that are now a ubiquitous part of their cuisine, they were the first to have access to ingredients that had never been combined before. This truly global pantry facilitated many of the diets we now consider traditionally Western European.
Portugal is a land of contrasts, with a complex and convoluted history that oftentimes seems like a disparate tapestry incomprehensibly bound together. At the western edge of Europe, where the Eurasian landmass ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins lies a country about the size of Maine that, by all accounts, has punched above its weight. Officially founded in 1143, Portugal is the oldest continuously sovereign European nation-state. Originally inhabited by the Lusitans, the Celts, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Umayyad Caliphate, the Iberian Peninsula has historically been a melting pot of staunch Catholicism, Sephardic Judaism, and Sunni Islam. To this day you can see how all three major religions have influenced Portuguese cuisine - from Jewish poultry sausages called alheiras, to traditional Moorish cookery called cataplanas.
Then came the so-called Portuguese Golden Age, the time when the people from a tiny spec of rock in Western Europe irreversibly changed the course of world history. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover a water way to India and beyond, setting up trading posts from Rio de Janeiro to Nagasaki. From a culinary perspective, Portuguese “exploration” is the reason Europe has potatoes, India has red chilies, and Japan has tempura. At its height, the Portuguese kingdom was the richest in all of Europe.
And that brings us to myself and today. My family left Portugal in the 1960s because of extreme poverty (the GDP per capita in 1960 was $360). The fascist dictator Antonio Salazar’s African colonial wars were particularly pernicious and left all countries involved broke and destitute. As the first real mercantile empire, Portugal had its citizens already dispersed around the globe, including the American Northeast. Many leveraged those connections for a chance at economic mobility elsewhere, leading to a rather unique position for the country; there are currently more Portuguese people abroad than in Portugal itself. In my lifetime alone and in the aftermath of joining the European Union, the country has witnessed a change from dirt roads to paved superhighways filled with tourists from all over the world. A lot has changed, most for the better, the rest forever filed away into the archives of memory.
Food is what unites Portugal and its cacophonous diaspora spread from Newark to Malacca. There’s a holy set of delicious recipes that is bound by tradition and we’re damn proud of it. That’s what is exciting about our cuisine - it hasn’t really changed all that much over the last couple centuries. It’s the lovechild of so many interconnections, borne of necessity, curiosity, and to a large degree, appropriation. Our gastronomy is a wiley beast, it’s tentacles familiar but still undefinable. It’s spicier and herbier than most Western European food and we’re perhaps one of the few countries in the world where the national dish of salted cod fish, bacalhau, isn’t even sourced domestically! Fishermen have been going to Nova Scotia and Norway for centuries to get this beloved staple.
But, alas, even this is changing, and I for one am excited to see what Portuguese gastronomy will evolve to, where Cerberus’s head will pop out of next. Lisbon is getting more and more cosmopolitan and people from Goa, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and Brazil are redefining the local food scene. In fact, when Forrest and I visited last year our favorite meal was at Cantinho do Aziz, a Mozambican restaurant. There’s a sense that we’re on the verge of another culinary renaissance that will globalize the cuisine even further while still retaining its distinctiveness. The tiny, patchwork country of Portugal, for all its dichotomies and inconsistencies, produces some of the most satisfying food we’ve ever eaten (not biased at all…) and we’re excited to be sharing our version of a night out in Lisbon with you!
Featured Recipe: Pasteis de Natas
Pasteis de Nata
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
1.5 cups heavy cream
Two pinches of salt
10.5oz (300g) of puff pastry (or use one sheet of store bought pastry dough, rolled out using the same instructions as below)
2 tsp confectioner’s sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a double boiler (or place a large bowl over a smaller pan filled with 2in of barely simmering water - the point is to gently steam the custard so the yolks don’t curdle) and beat the egg yolks with a whisk until combined
Gradually stir in the sugar, cream, and salt. Stirring with a wooden spoon, cook over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly so it can cover the back of your spoon
Strain the custard into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out so that it forms a very thin rectangle. Starting on the long end, begin rolling the dough into a circular log, making sure that no air bubbles are created. Cut the log into 12 equal portions of dough (they should look like mini cinnamon rolls)
With the palm of your hand, flatten the pinwheels and roll the portions into thin circles. Place the dough rounds into a pre-buttered muffin tin and use your fingers to press the dough into the mold, trying to make the bottom thinner than the sides. If you see any air bubbles, use a fork to poke holes in the dough and smooth it out
Spoon the custard into the pastry shells, filling them nearly to the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.
Cool the tarts for 10 minutes and run the blade of a knife around to remove them from the pan. Combine the confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on the tarts.
Cool and enjoy!
2.5 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (7g) sea salt
3/4 cup (177ml) of ice water
16 tbsp (227g) unsalted butter
Mix the flour, salt, and ice water together and knead with your hands until it is firm enough to be formed into a ball. Add more water if necessary
Roll the dough into a 7in x 7in rectangle, wrap it in cling wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 min
Cut up the butter into tablespoon portions and sprinkle flour over the pieces. Using your hands form the butter into one solid mass and roll into a 4in x 4in rectangle. Make sure the butter is cold before you start to avoid melting. Cover in cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes
Place the butter block on top of the dough so that the butter forms a diamond in the middle of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter so it creates a little package. Roll the combined dough out to a 12in x 6in rectangle. Fold the rectangle in thirds (like a letter) and rotate 90 degrees so that the short ends are facing you. Repeat rolling the dough into a 12in x 6in rectangle and fold. Wrap it and rest it in the refrigerator for 30 mins
Repeat the rolling, folding, and resting process above 2 more times. In total your puff pastry should be rolled 6 times. It is now ready to be used!