Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato are one of the specialties of the city of Lisbon. It is an appetizer or a main dish that is offered in most restaurants of the beautiful Portuguese capital.
The sauce that coats the clams is prepared with olive oil (of very good quality as it is the star ingredient of the sauce), garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper and sometimes, as is the case here, some dry white wine to bring even more flavor. Then, the juice of lemon juice is drizzled before being served.
The Lisboetas and travelers returning from the Tagus river will speak to you with joy of the infinite pleasure of savoring amêijoas à Bulhão Pato by the sea and finishing the dish with a good bread to soak up the wonderful juice of the clams intimately mixed with the olive oil, garlic and cilantro. This is what we call the simple pleasures of life. An easy and quick recipe to make, but above all very friendly and without fuss that we take pleasure to share in good company, for a short lunch break or at the end of the day, at sunset, at the Port of Lisbon.
Lisboa is a town located in the Bay of the Sea of Straw (Mar da Palha), where the Tagus Estuary is also located. The Tagus is a river whose source is located in Spain, before it gets to Portugal. Many of the emblematic dishes of Portuguese gastronomy are prepared with fish or shellfish. Nothing surprising for a country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and whose capital sits on a bay.
The Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, enjoys a great reputation for the variety and freshness of its fish, shellfish and crustaceans. It is from this region that comes a large part of the seafood consumed in Portugal, including clams. Some are farmed and others are picked up by mariscadores, shellfish farmers.
Cockles are similar to clams and are both of the Veneridae family. They are from the same family as mussels, scallops and oysters, the family of bivalves. However, they have the distinction of burying themselves in the sand and mud, which means you have to thoroughly clean them before eating. In contrast, clams are much rarer than cockle. The warty venus (or venus clam) is a “cousin” of the clam but its shell is much thicker and it is often larger.
Clams can be an interesting source of protein, while being low in fat. They contain fatty acids of the omega-3 family, are a source of phosphorus (which helps with the formation of bones and teeth, and plays a role in the regeneration of tissues), zinc (which contributes to the immune balance, the healing of tissues, etc.), but also copper, selenium, vitamin B12, B2, B3, iron, vitamin A. In other words, they are full of good things while remaining low in fat.
They are consumed in the coastal cities all around the world and prepared in many ways. Spring is the best season to enjoy them. In a chowder, in a little broth then sprinkled with juice and sauce, with pasta or rice, or in a soup.
In Portugal, the amêijoas are at the heart of many recipes such as cataplana (which refers to both the container, the cooking vessel, and a seafood dish with spices, white wine, tomatoes, etc.) or carne de porco à alentejana (consisting of pork, clams and accompanied by potatoes). And many others.
But today, we chose to feature the recipe of amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. It is named after Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato, a poet, gastronomist and epicurean, who was an important figure in the intellectual and artistic life of Portuguese society in the mid to late nineteenth century. He even participated in a culinary book, “The cook of the cooks” (O Cozinheiro dos Cozinheiros) by Paulo Henrique Plantier, published for the first time in 1870, which offered a chapter of recipes invented and made by famous Portuguese artists of the time.
So this is a nice tribute to this epicurean and lover of good food, that this dish that is so popular still bears his name today, and continues to challenge the curious foodies like us.
- 2 lb fresh clams
- ½ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic , peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch cilantro finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 lemon (or lime)
- Dip the clams in a large amount of water with the coarse salt for 3 hours. They will desalinate and get rid of the sand they contain. Place in the refrigerator.
- Rinse thoroughly and several times in cold water to completely get rid of sand.
- Use a brush to scrape the shells to remove the last traces of sand as well as any marine residues.
- Pour the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the garlic and cilantro. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
- Add the dry white wine and bring to a boil. Add the clams. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook over medium heat until the clams open, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Once all the clams are open, place them on the serving dish and let the sauce boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the clams.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice before eating.