On a recent family trip to Portugal I learned many useful things:
The only real translation guide you need is the pictorial menu from Santini’s Gelado in Lisbon. Marabunta, by the way, literally means a swarm of ants but in the world of ice cream it means chocolate shavings.
There is no such thing as a 10 year old Tawny Port. There are bottles of liquid labeled 10 year Tawny Port, but they don’t taste the same (or so I was told by fellow tourists in the Port caves who had studied it much more than I did – all I can say for sure is that the shockingly expensive 40 year Tawny Port I got to taste, it tasted pretty awesome. It was like a very happy marriage of fine wine and whiskey).
You can, eventually, eat too many octopus kebabs – but when you see a kebab suspended hanging over a plate with giant tentacles skewered on it, it’s hard to say no. I hear that there is a new creation out there that begins with a Turduken and then adds octopus tentacles and crab legs on top. Brilliant.
The city of Porto really does look like a scene out of Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling is rumored to have modeled much of the series on Porto while she lived there and taught English). It has a fairy tale air about it without the dreary British weather, and the university students all wear black capes. Can you imagine if Harvard decided that their students would all wander around Cambridge wearing crimson capes?
If you find yourself with some European moonshine (which, thanks to a nice bartender and his even nicer grandmother we did) drink an espresso then add the moonshine to the cup and drink it that way. The residual warmth and coffee flavor do much to offset the rocket fuel aspects.
Now, here’s the caution with this menu: I live in Vermont. Vermont does not have lots of awesome and affordable sea food. Almost none, in fact. That limits the options for, oh, say, octopus kebabs. Here is the best Portuguese menu I could manage without heroic measures:
- Rolls with Butter, Olives, Marinated Carrots, Anchovy Pate (an idea whose time has come -as far as I can tell, you moosh anchovies with olive oil)
- Seafood Feijoada with Rice – If you are okay with sort of making up soups as you go along, here is what I used in non-measured amounts to create this: roasted red and green peppers, onions, water (of course), salt & pepper, white wine, tomato paste, clam juice, navy beans, then when I had a soup base I dumped in the “Marisco Mix” of frozen seafood that was on sale at the store, covered, and steamed them to cooked. Or you could, you know, follow a recipe. Here’s one from AllTheCooks.com.
- Franceshinas – I’m still in shock. These sandwiches use less a recipe and more an assembly procedure of three meats, bread, cheese and a beer gravy. Here is a description from Saveur that I like for its title – Mega Monsieur. One thing to note, you’ll want a few slices of cheese on top of the meat, as well as on top of the bread to stick it all together. Also, I added red wine to the gravy. Because why not?
- Chicken Piri-Piri – I happened to have a bottle of Piri Piri sauce (it’s a hot sauce), so I just grilled chicken and put out the sauce. Here is a homemade version recipe from Leite’s Culinaria that probably tastes better than what I had anyway. Another option would be chicken in a port wine sauce.
- Bolinho de Bacalhau (Codfish Fritters) or a more simple item Salt Potatoes (not Portuguese, but fit in well here)
- Eggplant with Tomato, Figs and Parmesan – I am adding this because there weren’t a lot of vegetables about in Portugal, but I saw this on a menu and so I stewed up eggplant, tomato and diced dried figs, then served a block of fancy parm alongside. You could also make a veggie kebab which would taste good too.
- Dessert. So many options. Fancy vanilla ice cream with a dose of Port on top would be easiest. Egg cream pastries (pastel de nata) were everywhere, but of variable quality and I need to experiment a bit before recommending a recipe. If you have a sponge cake recipe and a pastry cream recipe of any sort, making the cake then cutting it horizontally and sandwiching in the pastry cream would work – even better would be roll up cakes, considered a bit frumpy here but evidently still quite fashionable there (of course Martha Stewart has a gallery of cake roll recipes). Gelato. Serradura. Need more ideas? Check out this Pinterest photo gallery.