22 December 2011

Frosted Shortbread Cutout Cookies

It is a big year for the Bacalhau Chronicles, y'all.  This will be the first year Bacalhau Boy and I spend Christmas here in Lisbon.  Do you know what that means?

I am going to finally experience FIRST HAND that most holy of all bacalhau days-- Christmas Eve.

18 October 2011


I have to share this amazing piece of reporting on ginja, the sweet cherry liqueur of the Lisbon streets. I am a hardcore "ginjinha" fan, and if you aren't yet... well, watch THIS:
Liqueur: There’s nothing like Ginjinha (video)

16 October 2011

Bacalhau Assado no Forno

If Bacalhau à Brás is the dish I hear most foreigners call their favorite, then Bacalhau Assado has to be-- hands down-- the one I hear most Portuguese call their favorite.

It shouldn't be terribly surprising, really.  Of all the simple ways to prepare bacalhau, this is one of the simplest. And in a culture where quality ingredients are prized above fancy culinary techniques, how could you help but love a no-fuss dish which showcases the taste of bacalhau at its best?

07 October 2011

Tastes Like Vacation

My vacation tasted like home.

Hold on a minute-- don't start making assumptions there, bucko.  I am no McDonald's tourist.  I firmly believe that vacations should taste of exotic spices and meats, with a side of foreign scenery and menus you can't really understand but order from anyhow.  I believe in trying whatever the locals consider best and opening your mind to what you find.

But when I return home to the US for my two-week visit with the family each year, I love becoming reacquainted with the familiar flavors of my childhood.  I can't get enough of the huge range of multi-cultural offerings you find in the States, with all these ingredients I can't get my hands on in Lisbon.  And the spiciness!  Ohhh, how I love getting my hands on the spicy.

Luckily, anytime my family gets together in one time zone there is a 100% chance that delicious food will be involved.  Every hour, on the hour, if possible.  I am still smiling at the memories of all the good stuff I got to eat.  Wanna see the highlight reel?

(Yes, you do.  You totally do.)

17 September 2011

Bem-vindo, Férias!

Bacalhau Boy and I are just a few hours away from hopping a flight to see my family in the United States.  I am anticipating too much awesome board game playing and cupcake baking and historical sightseeing to actually have time to post anything to the blog until our return.

So while we are off having family fun, I am sharing two of my favorite new Portuguese foodie diversions to keep you entertained.

1. BLOG: Eat Portugal.

Sounds familiar, you say?  That could be because this blog is by the authors of the recently released book, Eat Portugal.  It is perfect if you are visiting Portugal and want help navigating menus so you can be adventurous and yet not get stuck with, say, roasted pig snout. (Unless you are into that...)

The blog has some great features on typical Portuguese foods, many written by one of my favorite bloggers, Lucy Pepper.  So until my bacalhau pan is back in action in a couple of weeks-- try this out!

2. TV SHOW: Masterchef Portugal

This show has me hooked!  The original Australian version has intrigued me for years, mainly because there are an outrageous number of contestants, overly complicated rules, and what seems like eight shows in between each elimination.

On the other hand, the contests they devise encourage creativity that is actually achievable, and all the more interesting as a result.  The Portuguese version is even more up my alley since the ingredients used are not the ones I would gravitate to normally.  I can say it has taught me a lot about getting in a "Portuguese cuisine" state of mind.

See you again in October, refreshed and ready for more bacalhau.

Até logo!

14 September 2011

Bacalhau com Amêijoas

I feel like I should apologize.  I have nothing much to say about this cod and clam and crunchy potato dish.

Not that it wasn't great!  It really was.  But right now, all I can think about is packing for my annual trip to visit with my family in the US.

Have I gotten presents for everyone?  
What will the range of weather be-- jacket, or just sweater weather?
What if I save space by leaving all my toiletries here and stopping at Target to pick up necessities right after arriving?  
All the sightseeing-- have I gotten tickets for the high-demand museums yet?  OH!  That reminds me... walking shoes...

But in fact this dish WAS good and I have the picture to prove it.  I really want to share.  So here is the most important info, via a brief packing parable:

12 September 2011

Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

This is not a cake to wheel out for a flashy dinner party.  This is a cake which will happily sit on your counter, beckoning to you throughout the week.  It will say things like:

"Care for a morning snack with your coffee?"
"Oh, what a tough day you had a work, let me console you!"
"Come on-- curl up with me and a glass of milk before bed. You know you want to."

This cake is a simple pleasure to enjoy a whole week long.  Because it is made with apples, it only gets yummier and more moist as the days pass.  And since it is made with apples, you can believe that it is healthy enough to eat every day at any hour.

11 September 2011

Louisiana Bacalhau Cakes with Corn Relish

If there were a book about my eating life in Portugal, the first chapter would undoubtedly be called, "Jen versus Fish Bones."  

In the US, I had only ever eaten fresh fish in fillets.  They were every bit as fresh as the fish I get here, but they were prepared.  As in, let the fishmonger do his job and make the fishes all pretty and easy to cook at home.  As in, let the restaurant fillet your fish so that they do not risk provoking a lawsuit when you swallow a rogue bone.  As in, why let the fish stare at you with that fishy head and eyes if you don't have to?

I have since made peace with the espinas of the peixes here in Lisbon, and can now eat a grilled whole fish more or less neatly in a restaurant setting.  Because BB is a huge fan of grilled whole sea bream I cook that for him whenever I am feeling particularly sweet.  But at my core, I am always more comfortable when I can enjoy a fish dish without picking through bones.

In other words: it is not accidental that these Louisiana Bacalhau Cakes are the second fish patty recipe I have posted.

05 September 2011

Chocolate Yellow Plum Cake

Happy Labor Day weekend, America!  Time to welcome the best season of the year-- fall.  Okay, so it may not be time for sweaters or foliage just yet, but Labor Day picnics means crisp air and the triple threat of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas won't be far behind.

Here in Portugal this weekend is not a holiday, but it does mark the transition back into normal work mode and out of August.  For BB, it means his commute just got harder thanks to the extra traffic of people taking their kids to school every morning. (No school buses.)

For me, a grateful telecommuter, it means reintroducing myself to my baking equipment and fiddling around with after school-- errr, after work-- snack cakes.

02 September 2011

Macho Linguini Caprese

Summer in Portugal hearkens back to a time I... really don't remember.  Ever.  For the first decade of my working life, I counted myself lucky that while I didn't exactly have time for "vacation", I got to travel quite a bit for my job.  That counts, right?

As I pass through my third summer in Portugal, I am finally learning how to blend into Southern Europe in August.  Basically, it is best not to plan on getting anything done.  If you are not off to the beach for the month (why aren't you?), then everyone else is.

Our butcher shop and one of the local groceries are closed until... who knows?  They each forgot to put up a sign.  The bakery that delivers our bread twice a week was closed down for the whole month.  Cafes throughout the tourist district are shuttered up.

And since my main client is a university which (you guessed it) completely shut down their administrative offices for August, I have had an enforced vacation the likes of which I have never experienced.  Even in my high school and college days I had full-time summer jobs.  This was utterly disorienting to someone raised with an American work(aholic) ethic.

So when I wasn't busy feeling guilty about my own sloth, I had time for the summer things I always wanted to do.  One of those things?  Growing balcony vegetables.

31 August 2011

Finnish Pulla

Finland.  It was a land of mystery.

Before 2009, this country made me think of:  Snow.  Marimekko.  Double vowels.  Lapland.  The Flying Finn.

Then Bacalhau Boy and I had a two week honeymoon there.  Christmas 2009 was spent mainly above the arctic circle meeting the real Santa Claus, dogsledding, snowmobiling, steaming in saunas, watching the sun set at 3 pm, and spending one night in a bed (and room) made entirely out of ice.

The Ice Hotel: carved entirely out of snow and ice.  Amazing.  Also: one night was enough.
I don't know why, but I have been getting nostalgic for Finland lately.  Perhaps it is getting to be that time of summer when an ice bed and some cozy soft sweaters sound appealing.  Or perhaps it is because I have a natural tendency to be all sentimental and nostalgic without provocation. Either way, this weekend I decided to try my hand at some homemade Finnish Pulla.

Chicken Biryani

The King of Chickens.  O Rei dos Frangos.

Portugal has no shortage of kings, it seems, despite the absence of a monarchy.  In a sleepy old neighborhood called Moscavide, near our apartment, there is a King of Chicken.  Walking around Cascais a couple months ago, BB and I saw a rival King of Chicken enthroned there.  And there is even a King of Chicken chain, whose kingdom is vast and moderately priced.

So, when I was perusing my Bittman Bible, How to Cook, and I came upon Chicken Biryani, the "prince of chickens"-- how could I resist trying out some new royalty?

09 August 2011

Corn Muffins

Saturday mornings have a special magic, don't they?  I vividly remember sitting on the living room floor as a little girl, eating cereal and watching Jem and the Holograms.  Truly truly truly outrageous! Oh, and Pee Wee's Playhouse-- the fabulous Miss Yvonne rocked my 10-year old heart with her poofy skirts and poofier hair. But my all-time favorite treat actually came in between the shows, in the form of Schoolhouse Rock.  Conjunction Junction may deserve the credit and/or blame for making me an English major.

07 August 2011

Portuguese Surf n' Turf: Clams and Chouriço

Legend has it this dish was invented in Portugal during the Inquisition as a particularly diabolical taste test for non-Christians.  Between the shellfish and the pork it broke dietary laws for Muslims and Jews, so in Lisbon in 1552 you had best not decline the offer of this dish with an "I'm not hungry, thanks."

On the other hand, this dramatic and dark story smacks of urban legend to such a degree it leaves me 87% dubious.  And Snopes says nothing on the matter.

Therefore I prefer to think this pairing of clams and chouriço emerged in a more likely way: because little bits of this and that and the other can be combined economically to make a more substantial dish than any one item on its own.  Indeed, all the ingredients here are fairly common, cheap, and complement each other in a fulfilling rustic way.  Summery but hearty.

22 July 2011

Bacalhau Bread Stuffing

It's not pretty, folks.  But like Mama always says, it's what on the inside that counts.

18 July 2011

Cheery Cherry Clafouti

Cheery.  Cherry.  Clafouti.

Happy words, right?

That's no false advertising, people.  Your belly will be happy indeed after a nice big scoop of this custardy cake.

I know it's silly, but because this dessert has a French pedigree I always assumed it would be fiddly, technique-y, and a real pain to make.  Au contraire!  It is plenty easy to whip up, just five minutes from start to oven.

The only problem?  Those dang cherry pits.  But thanks to the ever-helpful Internets, I found out how to take care of them quickly with the flat side of a chef's knife, garlic-style.  Just be sure to wear an apron and protect your table from the cherry juice fallout!

17 July 2011

Petiscos of Portugal

I am a fan of tapas.  A huge variety of bite-sized morsels that makes a meal out of appetizers?  Sign me up.

Nowadays, though, I live in Portugal.  A place where tapas is a word used by the country who historically plays Marsha to Portugal's Jan: a country also known as Spain.

So we don't eat tapas in our house.  We detest tapas.  We avoid tapas and their shiny perfect hair and adorable miniskirts and effortless popularity with guys named Doug and Charlie. Tapas, tapas, TAPAS!

Instead, we choose to eat petiscos.

07 July 2011

Shrimp Scampi and the Benevolent Omnivore

I did not realize how insulated I was from the lives of the animals I eat until I was denied the emotional distance (and convenience) provided by the American supermarket.

In theory, I am a great supporter of knowing from whence comes my food.  It is only logical that since I choose to be a meat and fish eater, I should understand my choice involves, you know-- living things.

Believe me, I do now.

Chocolate Salami

Great Salamis of Portugal:



02 July 2011

Peas with Eggs and Chorizo

Whatever finicky tendencies I had as a child (ketchup on mac and cheese, anyone?), I left them all behind once I hit college in New York City.  There is a whole world of food on that little island: sushi, burritos, bagels and lox, spanakopita, sesame chicken, kim chi, soul food, falafels, and on and on.  I became an enthusiastic believer in trying new things.

This characteristic has served me well in Portugal.

Octopus, blood sausage, pig trotters, tripe, snails, and fried sardines-- they all require a bit of fearless tasting for me, whereas they are second nature to Bacalhau Boy and his clan.  When my family came to visit last year, my sister-in-law won the prize for most culinarily adventurous by tucking into a pig snout from the elaborate platter of meats my father-in-law proudly presented for lunch.

Now, to be fair, Bacalhau Boy is no grand fan of offal or entrails. We rarely eat snout.  But this past week I craved the taste of summer-- the kind of summer which my inner child's tastebuds would recognize.  I made pulled pork sandwiches with homemade cole slaw on top.  I made a chilled sriracha macaroni salad that left my mouth tingling with delicious spiciness.  I grilled cheeseburgers American style-- WITH the bun, eaten by hand.

But oh, how the pendulum of married life swings.

I filled my belly with familiar deliciousness.  Also, I watched my dear BB good-naturedly eat the mayonnaise-laced cole slaw and the vinegar-based barbecue sauce and the spicy sriracha salad despite his hatred of mayonnaise, vinegar, and spicy foods.  I felt a teensy bit bad for him, even though I couldn't understand his weirdo tastebuds.

Finally, once my inner child was appeased, I figured it was time to take pity. The next night I made my honey some real Portuguese comfort food.

27 June 2011

Portuguese Meal Rules and Greek Alevropita

In the middle of a hectic day at work, I ran down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat for lunch.  Ten minutes later I was sitting at my desk, simultaneously eating a ham sandwich and proofreading a draft on my laptop.  The Portuguese staff came in, saw me, and did a double take.


Because to eat a cold sandwich for lunch while sitting at a desk working is completely oddball American behavior.  My Portuguese co-workers (much like Bacalhau Boy) require lunch at a table! With utensils!  Hot food, and plenty of it.

Things can seem a bit through-the-looking-glass here when it comes to meals.  There are many ways in which a North American visitor might become confused.  Here are the five top mistakes I have made things to remember when eating in Portugal:

20 June 2011

Bacalhau com Natas

If you are reluctant to eat bacalhau because it is fish, and fish is "too healthy and bland"...

If you have ever had a crush on someone who wasn't very good for you...

If you have a cholesterol level under 200 or an overactive metabolism you would like to cure in one night...

THIS is your bacalhau.

14 June 2011

Frango na Púcara, Santo António, and the Marchas Populares

Behold, my first attempt at recreating the deliciousness experienced in Alcobaça, which I raved about in a previous post.  Monday was the Feast of Saint Anthony, a big holiday and day off in Lisbon, so what better way to fill my afternoon than with a couple hours of fussing over some delicious, drunken chicken stew?

12 June 2011

The Great Santini Gelado

Today, Bacalhau Boy and I were three-hour tourists.

Lisbon is emptied of half its inhabitants thanks to a four-day weekend, and poor Bacalhau Boy was stuck working for most of it.  This afternoon we said enough!, and turned the car towards the storybook charming village of Cascais for some strolling in the sun.  Even if we couldn't take a proper vacation, we were going to pretend we did anyhow.

Although Cascais is just 25 miles (40 km) from Lisbon, we rarely visit on weekends.  Today I asked myself why, again and again.

And again.

After a brief wander through the picturesque streets of the old town and some delicious arroz de marisco (shellfish rice) for lunch, we made our way here:

08 June 2011

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

Portuguese classics will almost always include six or more of the following ingredients:

1. Bacalhau
2. Onions
3. Garlic
4. Potatoes
5. Eggs
6. Olives
7. Parsley and/or fresh cilantro
8. Lots of olive oil

With these pantry staples, one could create a week's worth of meals, each one different than the last, but each one the same.  It is thrifty and mind boggling-- and something I never much noticed before I started documenting this journey into bacalhau.

I am mildly unsurprised, then, to present a dish which embodies ALL of these ingredients: Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá.

07 June 2011

Perfect American Pie Crust

When it comes time for sweet things in Lisbon, pastelarias will do you just fine. Crisp puff pastry shells filled with custard, wodges of chocolate cake covered in chocolate sprinkles and oozing liquid fudge centers, gooey sweet sponge cake, little meringues called "kisses"... there is a whole compendium of sweets which Portugal does exceedingly well, and which perfectly explains their delightful ritual of the afternoon coffee.

Then, there are the times when all a girl wants is some pie. Pie that makes you feel comforted and at home.  Pie that is the perfect dessert when you have a bounty of fresh fruit in front of you.  Pie that makes you feel a little less homesick.

It's not that you don't see pie on the menu in Portugal, it's just such a different creature it is impossible to take comfort in the taste of it.  There are no pie pans here, only tart pans.  And inevitably the restaurant pie is an industrial-tasting concoction with plenty of gelatinous goop and hard slices of apple smashed in between two rather tough layers of dough, in which not an ounce of buttery goodness can be found.

So, what could I do except go old school and try to quell homesickness with a quest for the perfect pie crust?
My Thanksgiving Table O´ Pie 2010. The quest begins.

04 June 2011

Summer Strawberry Pie

Strawberries taste like summer.  It's hot out.  Eat some.

Add a creamy filling of white chocolate and crispy, flaky crust.  Because you roll like that.

Take a big slice outside with a side of cool breeze and a tall iced coffee.

25 May 2011

Dark Chocolate Peach Crumble

Summer has hit Lisbon, and it will linger like a socially inept houseguest well into October.

Yes, I understand that this is an ungrateful attitude toward a warm climate. And I'll be the first to admit, coming to Portugal for a beach holiday and enjoying the heat and constant gorgeous sunshine is a spectacular way to spend a week or two.  But commuting via crowded bus, lugging home bags of groceries, doing the vacuuming, and finding business attire that covers nakedness but does not bring on instant sweating?  All less than awesome realities of life in sunny climes.

23 May 2011

Bacalhau Burgers

After a week of boring meals (hello again, roast chicken) and not-terribly-successful-meals (homemade empanadas, I am looking at you!) I am diving back into the pool of bacalhau experimentation.

The inspiration for Bacalhau Burgers came from King Arthur Flour's blog, which suggested this week that I master my recipe for homemade burger buns in anticipation of Memorial Day.  Great idea, KAF!  This is why you are a valued member of my email inbox.

Once I had it in my mind that I was going to make some tasty burger buns, I immediately thought of putting bacalhau inside of them.  I have made salmon burgers and tuna patties, and they are tasty enough.  But when a woman decides to make her very own burger buns, it requires a burger which is nothing short of WOW, you know?  I had to seek out something different, something with exclamation points.

18 May 2011

Frango na Púcara at Frei Bernardo

Alcobaça is a town with an amazing monastery.

Stunning, right? One of the best examples of gothic architecture in Portugal, it was founded by the first king of Portugal in the 12th century and back in the day used to house over 300 hard-drinking, big-eating monks.

But do you know what else Alcobaça is famous for?

Frango na Púcara.

17 May 2011

The Immortal Love of Pedro and Inês

Bacalhau Boy had a birthday last week.

Because I am a clever girl who will use any excuse for luring him away from his workaholic tendencies, one of his birthday presents was a romantic weekend road trip to find the footsteps of Portugal's most famous star-crossed lovers, Dom Pedro I and Inês de Castro. 

And because I am also an excessively share-y and excitable girl, here is a little of what we saw from this extraordinary (and TRUE) love story which began almost 700 years ago... and is still waiting for its happy ending.

(If you are not a fan of tragic and haunting love stories, stop reading now. No judgement.)

07 May 2011

Vinho Verde Poached Fish

If I were Keats, or Byron, or Camões, I would write an ode to Vinho Verde.  Sadly I cannot, since I would never do it justice.  It is a bubbly, tangy Portuguese white wine, best when served very cold on a very hot day.  And as luck would have it, there are many hot days in Portugal.  So, while there can be no ode, I will find every reason I can to have a bottle in the house now that the 82-degree weather that is spring in Lisbon has arrived.

One of those completely justifiable, not-at-all fabricated reasons?  To play around with Julia Child's white wine poaching of fish.

02 May 2011

The Biggest Loser: Bacalhau Style?

About six months ago, I saw my first episode of the Biggest Loser.  I had never wanted to watch it before, but as is the nature of living abroad, when you find English-language shows, you give them a try.  And in this case... I was promptly addicted and I dragged Bacalhau Boy right down with me.  (You're welcome, BB)

So, how thrilled were we when we found out that Portugal was getting its own version?  (Answer: MUITO.)

Last night was the premiere episode of Peso Pesado (Heavy Weight).  Bacalhau Boy was looking forward to seeing the presenter, Júlia Pinheiro-- a woman he claims has more in common with the Weakest Link's Ann Robinson than with sweetheart Alison "Sami" Sweeney.  I was looking forward to seeing if they could find a Portuguese Jillian to be both psychologist and sadist extraordinaire.

In the end:

  • Júlia was not (very) scary, and it was too early to tell if the trainers were, either.  
  • The first challenge was exciting, humiliating, and had an "oh, TWIST!" moment, which was excellent.  
  • There is a new element of the show called the Comando who took aside two contestants and made them do push-ups while he splashed them with buckets of cold water.  That was pretty awesome.  

All-in-all, we will likely be as addicted to this show as to the original.

What surprised me the most, though, was the first Temptation. Júlia led the contestants out to say farewell to their "best friends"-- and there was a buffet of Portuguese food at its finest.  (Skip ahead to 3:00 minutes to see the food--)

Now... at this point in the evening, Bacalhau Boy started to make noises.  Noises like, "Uhhhh... Ooooo... Ohhhh... Mmmmmmm."  I was rather startled.  These are the noises that I usually make whenever the Biggest Loser tempts their poor contestants with delicious and fattening food.  Not Bacalhau Boy.

"Ohhhh, that looks so good to me, I can really feel the temptation. I never feel that way when they show those nachos and cheeseburgers and crap on the other show."

I was stunned.  "Nachos and cheeseburgers and crap"??? A sério?  I guess the sliced meats and cheeses and olives looked lovely and if I were at a party I would try some, but suffice to say I would not have to work hard to resist them, either.  Not like a cinnamon roll.  Or a big plate of mac and cheese. Or nachos...

At this point, the cholesterol really hit the fan.  The producers began to unveil plates of the contestants' favorite dishes. (Starting at 5:30" on the video)

And this-- this is when you know you are living in a different country.  The Biggest Loser morphed into a scene from Fear Factor.  The favorite dishes of the contestants include (in the order in which they are revealed):

Picanha with fries and rice: Picanha is the sliced rump-cap of beef, very popular in Brazil and Portugal.
Bacalhau à Brás: Saltcod with eggs and fried potatoes
Bacalhau com Natas: Saltcod with heavy cream and fried potatoes
Lasagna: Errr, you know this one, right?
Cachupa: A pig's foot, sausage, and bean stew from Cape Verde
Dobrada: Tripe (pig intestine) and chickpea stew typical of Porto
Beef in Mushroom Cream Sauce and fries
Migas: A kind of bread stuffing served with fried pork

Somehow, I don't think that Peso Pesado is going to torture my natural apetite instincts the same way the Biggest Loser does.  But what a way to get to know the food cravings of Portugal and pick up some new ideas!

Bacalhau com Capa de Broa

Things happen when you have parties.  You might attempt some brown sugar cupcakes with fig filling, and maybe they end up looking like the Bad News Bears of baked goods.  And maybe your honey marscapone frosting curdles and has to be binned.  You might even be up at 2 am on a Saturday night praying that your yellow layer cake doesn't go the way of the more ambitious cupcakes, while you watch Vampire Diary reruns to stay awake until the cake is cool enough to come out of the pans.

Or it might just happen that you decide to try out a new bacalhau recipe on your Portuguese in-laws for Mother's Day (May 1 here this year), and while you are up to your elbows in shreds of bacalhau and cornbread crumbs your in-laws show up an hour before you expect them.

Wine, anyone?

28 April 2011

Bacalhau Fajitas

Fajitas are not Portuguese. Let's get that out there, right at the beginning.  Bacalhau Boy (the husband's new blog identity) had never eaten one before he met me.  And traditional fajita fillings?  Roasted red peppers, jalapenos, hot and spicy seared steak or chicken, guacamole, salsa, sour cream-- definitely delicious, but not in the least way Iberian.

But as much as I love those spicy flavors, my favorite part of fajitas is not their distinctive taste.  It is the genius of the soft tortilla as a food delivery system.  Think about it-- you pick and choose your fillings right at the table. You create a single serving, of-the-moment buffet in a soft floury shell.  And it is seriously fun to eat.   

So since it is a genius system that seems perfectly adaptable to other flavors, the only remaining question is:

If fajitas were Portuguese, what would they be filled with?

23 April 2011

Tipsy Easter Nest Cake

Easter in Portugal is a serious event.  All week, delivery men, checkout ladies, work colleagues, and random passersby have been wishing me a Boa Páscoa. People have had holidays from work since Thursday afternoon, and Lisbon is fairly emptied as dutiful kids return to their relatives in the hinterlands to celebrate this weekend. It feels like Christmas without the presents and with much nicer weather.

Yeah, yeah, yeah-- this is all very nice.  The problem is that it makes me miss Easter with my own family.  Kielbasa and rye bread, Paas-dyed eggs eaten all day long, homemade baskets of chocolate bunnies, ham and scalloped potatoes... sigh.  Unfortunately, these are things which are not available in Portugal.  My old traditions don't have much of a chance here.

In my mind, then, it was very important to mark this occasion with a cake which deserves to be a new tradition.  A cake which would make me forget my Mom's sweet bread and be outstanding enough to act as a centerpiece for a four-day weekend.  

THIS is that cake.

15 April 2011

Bacalhau à Brás

When I first got to Lisbon, I had a hard time getting on the bacalhau love train.  Honestly, I felt convinced that though I might tolerate it someday, I would never love it.

That was before I tasted Bacalhau à Brás.

12 April 2011

TV in Portugal (and Carrot Pataniscas)

In the past two years, I have managed to learn a bit of Portuguese.  This is helpful for lots of reasons.
1. I can go grocery shopping and know what I am looking for.
2. I can talk with Pedro's family.
3. I can understand what our "mulher a dias" (equal parts cleaning lady and grumpy grandma) says when she criticizes my messy dresser drawers.
4. I can eavesdrop on public transportation. (Hey, it's good practice!)

But the BEST reason I have for learning Portuguese is Portuguese television. If eyes are the windows to the soul, then television must be the eyes of a nation.  (Yeah, that's right, I was an English major, yo...)

Anyhow, since I can't offer plane tickets to Lisbon for all my family and friends, I had to at least share a few of my very favorite Portuguese shows with you.*

(And yes, there is a recipe at the end. So hang in there.)

*Note: I loved these shows long before I spoke Portuguese, TV being a visual thing and all.  So I hope even if you don't know your obrigada from your chouriço, you will give these gems a try.

1. Home Makeover Show: Querido, Mudei a Casa!

"Honey, I Changed the House" is similar to the TLC show While You Were Out. There is a two-day makeover which is kept secret from one member of a household while professionals transform one room.  Genius in any language!

There are certain hallmarks of this genre which are all here:
  • The Before/After Room Scan, complete with music which maximizes the chance you will oooo and ahhhh.
  • The BlahbittyBlah when the designer talks with the host about how awesome the room is while as a viewer you just want to get to...
  • The BIG REVEAL for the homeowner. 
BUT-- watch the clip below and tell me if you do not notice one very glaring difference at around 5'45".  Go ahead, I'll wait.

08 April 2011

Spicy Yogurt Chicken and Zucchini Gratin

I feel like I need to confess something.  Looking at the title of the blog and the recipes I've posted, one might imagine I am exploring Portuguese cooking with every meal we eat.  Errrr...

Yes, we are in Portugal. Yes, I have a Portuguese husband who likes to be fed, and yes, I try to make him things he finds comforting, familiar, and appetizing.  Sometimes.

But most of the time?  Bacalhau Boy survives on American cooking.

Luckily for him, that encompasses, oh, every type of cuisine the world has to offer. Spaghetti bolognese, and pierogies, and sushi, and burritos, and sesame noodles, and beef stroganoff, and falafel, and chicken vindaloo... and yes, some darn good burgers and fries, too. I'm not sure whether America is more of a "melting pot" or a "tossed salad", but either way, can it be coincidence that the metaphors for our multi-ethnicity are related to food??

So, to the (constant) surprise of Bacalhau Boy, we tend to eat from a grab bag of ethnic flavors.  Last weekend was one such meal: Greek-Thai Spicy Yogurt Chicken and French Zucchini Gratin.

07 April 2011

Bacalhau à Moliceiro

This is a dish in which bacalhau plays hide and seek.  A bit of masquerading, some clumsy sculpting, AND a story about a Portuguese sea town. This is 138% more fun than you expect from a piece of fish.

The story starts with the "à Moliceiro" part of this recipe.  A moliceiro is a kind of boat, iconic of the northern Portuguese town of Aveiro.  They have big colorful prows featuring humorous paintings of everyday scenes, and-- well, it's easier if you just have a look:

04 April 2011

Almond Torte

If you are gluten intolerant with a raging sweet tooth, I advise you to move to Portugal. Cake making without flour is an unusual adaptive feat most of the time, isn't it?  Kind of like making a Thanksgiving turkey out of tofu. Not that there is anything WRONG with that, but wouldn't it just be more delicious to make a meal out of actual veggies? 

Bolo de Amêndoa, or Almond Torte, is a seriously rich, seriously delicious piece of baked goodness that exists naturally in its best form without a bit of flour.  It also has the virtue of staying moist and delicious for a spookily long time-- even improving with age. AND it is equally tasty as a dessert, breakfast, or afternoon snack with coffee.

31 March 2011

A Bica in the Sun

Portugal is a warm country, y'all.

I grew up in a not-so-warm place, so it always amazes me when spring comes in reality at about the same time the calendar says it should. Today was that day for Lisbon, and it was glorious.

I should point out here that this is one of the only ways in which Portugal is prone to running perfectly on schedule.  If you are meeting a Portuguese colleague or friend, by all means show up on time, but bring a book to read while you wait for them to arrive.

Which reminds me:

Meeting friends for afternoon coffee is a wonderful, ubiquitous tradition here.  I knew when I was out walking today, I would see plenty of happy folk enjoying their "bica" with a side of sunshine.

Errr... wait a minute...

Ahhhh, of course!  The traditional first outdoor café of the spring, at GREATOPUS Digital Printing Express.

I did mention that the afternoon coffee was ubiquitous, didn't I?