Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is a very common dish in Portugal that many if not most restaurants have on their menu, also as tapas (called petiscos in Portuguese). Amêijoas is Portuguese for clams, and the dish has been named after the Portuguese poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato.
The one thing that struck me the most in terms of food during our recent vacation in Portugal was the wide-spread use of cilantro in southern Portugal, including Lisbon. Cilantro (fresh coriander leaves, called coentros in Portuguese) is used about as much in southern Portuguese cuisine as parsley is in Italy. And it is the single ingredient that distinguishes Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato from how vongole are prepared in Italy (i.e. with parsley).
The main ingredients are clams, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, pepper, and lemon. White wine and/or butter can also be added; here I’ve used both.
Our first night in Lisbon we enjoyed this at the famous seafood restaurant Ramiro. There we enjoyed the clams with toasted bread that was slathered with salted butter, and a nice bottle of Alvarinho Vinho Verde (dry white wine from the northern region of Minho).
For 3-4 servings as appetizer/petisco
1 kg (2.2 lbs) small clams; vongole are used in Portugal
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine (optional, water can be substituted)
freshly ground black pepper or piripiri flakes, to taste
1 Tbsp butter (optional)
Allow the clams to purge themselves for an hour in cold water that is as salty as the sea (i.e. 30 grams of salt in a litre of water, which is 4 teaspoons of regular table salt in 4 cups of water). Dissolve the salt into the water before adding the clams. Drain the clams and submerge them in cold water without salt. Discard any clams that are damaged or remain open when they are submerged in water without salt.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide pan with a cover. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic, and stir briefly until they are fragrant. As soon as the garlic starts to change color, add 125 ml of white wine (or water)…
…as well as the clams.
Cover and cook over medium-high heat…
…until the clams have opened. Discard any clams that won’t open and don’t cook them longer than necessary, as that would toughen them.
Turn off the heat. Season with freshly ground black pepper or piripiri flakes to taste. Add a tablespoon of butter (optional) in pieces.
Stir until the butter has melted. You can now add fresh cilantro and stir, like it was served at Ramiro…
…or serve the clams with fresh cilantro on top, and lemon to squeeze on the clams. Serve with bread to soak up the juices. At Ramiro the (white) bread was toasted and slathered with salted butter.
This is great with a Vinho Verde from Portugal, especially if it’s made from Alvarinho (or an Albariño from Rias Baixas across the border in Spain).
This erbazzone dolce is a sweet spinach tart with almonds from the North-Italian town of Reggio Emilia.