28 March 2013

Torresmos de Vinha d'Alhos

Although technically spring has sprung, it seems that the weather has not chosen to cooperate yet. For me, this is not unwelcome since:

a) I thrive in cooler weather and can maintain a happy mood for longer periods of time;
b) The baby has many cute long sleeved outfits and sweatshirts which he is getting good use out of; and
c) Comfort food tastes better when there is a chill in the air.

Case in point: this Marinated Pork in Wine and Garlic, known in its native Açores as Torresmos de Vinha d'Alhos.

The recipe I am using comes from a cookbook my father-in-law gave me, Cozinha Açoreana. It is a Portuguese-language cookbook, and with a recipe like this (completely new and with so many steps!) there was every likelihood of my messing up multiple ingredients and/or the entire cooking process. Google translate could (in theory) have helped me out, but it was telling me things like:

"Clean up the skins and meat fats and breaks, leaving 2 cutlets (or chopsticks) for each cracklings."

"With the predicament that is at the bottom of the pan, called foot crackling, make up dry cakes furnace, pouring boiling water at the bottom of which was crackling and joining cornmeal."

Uhhh. Yeah.  So I basically just worked out what the Portuguese meant on my own.

The vinha d'alhos is the marinade for the pork, and it is a tasty mixture of garlic, wine, chilis, peppers, and liver. Liver is not an ingredient I am very familiar with, mainly because I never think, "Ooooh, you know what I could go for tonight? A nice fried piece of liver." So it doesn't get much use in our house.

Actually, while we are on the subject of things I don't normally use while cooking:

Who's up for some pork fat? A POUND of pork fat!

Now, liver and pork fat are not the most appealing ingredients. But you know what? As this dish came together, I started to see that it was a celebration of various parts of the pig. Ribs, liver, fat-- it made me imagine a farmhouse where these all came from the same pig one season, and the lady of the house needed to find a way to marry the various odds and ends which weren't going to market, creating a tasty, hearty dish for the family.

That's right-- this recipe made me wax poetic about pig liver. There must be something special about it. If nothing else, it is a fantastic example of the "head to toe" cooking that I respect and love about traditional Portuguese fare.

And in the end, it was a lovely, comforting, homey stew of meat that warmed up the afternoon very nicely-- especially when served with a nice bottle of red wine like the one used in the marinade. For all the "new" ingredients, it tasted like Sunday dinner -- warm and familiar.

So, if one cold evening you are in the market for trying something new, I highly recommend this regional Portuguese classic. (And I hope that my recipe translation helps you more than Google translate did me.)

Torresmos de Vinha d'Alhos
Marinated Pork in Wine and Garlic
serves 8

4 kg/10 lbs pork ribs
750g/1.5 lbs pork liver
8 tsp chili powder or red pepper flakes
1/2 liter full-bodied red wine
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
10 cloves of garlic, minced
500g/1 lb of pork lard
3 tablespoons colorau (can substitute sweet paprika)
salt to taste

1. Trim the skin and excess fat off of the pork ribs and cut it, leaving 2 bones worth of meat in each piece. Clean and cut the liver into pieces approximately half the size of the rib pieces.

2. Make the vinha d'alhos by mixing together the chili/red pepper, garlic, peppers, wine, and some salt if needed in a large bowl. Add the ribs and the liver and toss to coat. Leave to marinate in a cool place (or the fridge) for at least an hour, preferably two.

3. Put a heavy-bottomed, deep pot over a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, fill it with the meat and the marinade (but not the liver!). Once the mixture has heated to a simmer, add the lard and cook at the med-high heat until the lard has melted and the mixture is simmering well. Then, reduce the heat to low and cool at a bare simmer for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time. It is nearly done when the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender and the marinade has nearly evaporated entirely.

4. Add the liver to the pot and let it cook for the final 10-15 minutes. Do not add the liver too soon or it will toughen and not be nice to eat.

5. Taste the sauce, which should be very reduced by now, and add the colorau/paprika and salt or other seasoning as needed. Mix the whole pot together well, and leave for a final 5 minutes on a low heat. Remove from the heat, and let the torresmos rest covered for 10-15 minutes before serving.

No comments:

Post a Comment