Archive for the ‘Lusophonic Leanings’ Category

Traditional Flan (Pudim Flan)

What sweeter way to use up farm fresh eggs than with a Portuguese flan?!

Egg Note: Do consider the size of the eggs in the recipe. Oddly enough, there isn’t much difference in yolk size from a small to a jumbo egg, but the white part changes in volume rather dramatically. What does this mean? If you are using small eggs, which are usually from younger or bantam chickens, this will mean that you will have a richer, yolkier flan because the yolk to white ratio is much higher. When small eggs are what I have on hand, I will use 10 small eggs instead of 8 large eggs and two egg yolks.

Traditional Flan (Pudim Flan)

Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Make sure you have flan dish. You can purchase Portuguese flan mold at a specialty store or use 6-8 individual ramekins.


Simmer over medium low heat until the syrup caramelizes and turns a deep golden brown. Keep an eye on this pot because it will go from boiling sugar…


… to perfect golden brown caramel in seconds. Likewise it can go from perfect golden to to burnt in seconds, too. It take about 5-10 minutes for the color to develop.


At this point you have a choice… You can either pour ALL the sugar into a large flan mold or 6-8 individual ramekins OR you can pour about a 1/4 cup of the stuff into the custard and the rest into the flan mold.   My father-in-law’s family does the former and mother-in-law’s family does the latter.  In her version, the caramel in the flan infuses the whole custard with that caramel flavor and makes it much darker in color.  Either way, remember that hot sugar syrup burns so make sure you are careful and use pot holders! Rotate the pan to coat both the bottom and sides and set aside.



  • 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • peel of one lemon without the pith (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp port wine (optional)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks

Heat the oven to 350F. Beat the eggs, sugar, and milk together until frothy. Add the cinnamon stick and lemon peel if using. Heat on the stovetop until warm. Remove from the heat and add the port wine if using. Strain into the prepared mold(s).


Place the custard dish into a water bath, which is quite easy to make: Simply place an oven-safe dish into the preheated oven, put the custard dish inside, and fill with boiling water until it comes halfway up the custard dish.


Bake 45 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle of the custard comes out clean. If you are using smaller ramekins, 35 minutes should be enough.


Chill completely before unmolding by topping with a large plate and flipping upside down.

Bifanas (Tender Pork Cutlets)

Bifanas are thin, tender slices of pork that are traditionally served on Portuguese bread as a sandwich and accompanied by their light cooking broth, similar to an au jus for dipping.  For full flavor and tenderness, make sure you have time to marinate the pork for several hours.

  • 1lb. Pork, thinly sliced (If possible, either DIY or ask your butcher to slice it as thin as ham)
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Pimenta Malagueta*, chopped
  • 6 Dashes Piri Piri* sauce
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine (My mother in-law uses Vinho Verde, which is a “green” or young wine that is usually effervescent)
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 12-oz. Beer (Try a Portuguese lager, such as Super Bock)

In a bowl, mix the garlic, malagueta, piri piri, pepper, bay leaves, and wine.  Add pork, cover, and refrigerate for several hours.

Heat olive oil in a pan on medium.  Remove pork from marinade, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt.  Sear in hot pan on both sides.  Add marinade liquid, lemon, and beer to pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat, and simmer until sauce reduces, about a half hour.

Serve atop slices of Portuguese bread and dip into the au jus.


Bolinhos de Bacalhau (Codfish Cakes)

These alone may be a reason to marry into a Portuguese family. When I was first offered these “fishcakes” during a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, I had unpleasant visions of breaded and fried fish mush. Fortunately these are nothing the like. Now that I have the knack for them, I usually make them in large quantities (quintuple the recipe) and freeze the raw dough in sandwich bags for later use. My mother-in-law has one of those handy food saver systems where she actually makes the individual codfish cakes, freezes them on a cookie sheet, and then stores them in vacuum packed bags where they keep their unique shape perfectly.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless salt cod
  • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • olive oil for frying

Rehydrate the salt cod by soaking in cold water for 1-3 days, changing the water twice daily. Many times the thin boneless, skinless salt cod pieces can take only a day whereas the thick cuts may take a full three days. If you are impatient, you can always try changing the water more frequently. I wish I could give you an exact soak time, but it depends on the thickness of the cod. Unfortunately, you just need to taste it to test the flavor: You are looking for flavorfully salty. It’s a careful balance. Although over-soaking can leave to bland yuck, remember that you can always add more salt to the recipe, but there is little that can be done with too much salt once the recipe is prepared.

Once the salt cod is ready, boil it in fresh water with the potatoes until the potatoes are fork tender, which is about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain. Allow to cool for easier handling. Mash the potatoes. Flake the codfish by aggressively rubbing with a clean dish towel (or several towels depending on how much you cod you are using). Not only are you looking to pull the fish into flakes, but you want to rub apart the flakes into thread-like strands. Mix the potatoes, codfish, eggs, and parsley together until a dough forms.

Heat a skillet on medium. Add the olive oil enough to come up halfway on the codfish cakes, less than 1/2″. When the olive oil is hot and a test piece sizzles, it is ready. Prepare the codfish cakes in the traditional form using two soup spoons, passing the dough between the two spoons to form a three-sided mini-football shape. Fry until golden brown on each of the three sides. Drain on paper towels.





Arroz no Forno (Baked Rice)

Simple. Easy. Flavorful. While you can make this in any baking dish, there are Portuguese dishes specifically made for baked rice. In Portuguese markets, I most often see this type of stoneware made from glazed terra cotta. What I haven’t seen in the US is the unglazed, black clay from Vila Real, which is located in Northern Portugal. I was lucky enough to carry one home from my last visit. I think the unglazed stoneware’s texture and dark color gives the rice a unique flavor and texture.


Mother-in-law’s Authentic Arroz no Forno

  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • sprig or two of parsley
In a skillet, saute the onion, salt, and olive oil until translucent and just beginning to develop some color. Add water and bring to a boil. Add rice to baking dish and pour over the hot liquid. Bake at 350F for an hour. This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, or until it can feed a Portuguese soccer team.
Daughter-in-law’s Lazy Arroz no Forno
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • dash of garlic and/or onion powder (optional)
  • sprig or two or parsley (optional)

Throw it all together and bake at 350F for 1 hour.


Iscas de Presunto (Savory Pancakes with Spring Ramps and Presunto)

Prior to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I had never heard of ramps. How exciting was it then to see Appalachian ramps at Whole Foods Market? They are also called wild leeks, spring onions, and wild garlic. This recipe is a modification of a Portuguese recipe my mother-in-law showed me called “iscas.” They are puffy, light, crispy, and melt in your mouth.

  • 2 eggs (Thanks, ladies!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • dash of salt and pepper or to taste
  • 2 oz. Presunto (Portuguese Dry-Cured Ham) or any leftover cooked protein (ham, chicken, pork, steak, flaked codfish, etc.) cut into small cubes, less than 1/2″
  • small handful (6-10) Ramps, chopped (You can substitute garlic, scallions, leeks or omit completely.  If you do use a more fibrous aromatic, I would recommend sautéing to soften prior to adding to the batter.)
  • Olive oil for pan

Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Mix in flour. Stir in presunto and ramps. The batter should have the consistency of a traditional pancake. Heat a skillet on the stovetop to medium low. Add olive oil in a thin to medium layer at the bottom, depending on your preference. Drop heaping tablespoons full of the batter and cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping once.


Yields approximately 12 pancakes.


A perfect lunch alongside a salad of local spring greens, local sun-dried tomatoes, and not-at-all local olives.  What portuguese meal is complete without the latter?!

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