Posts Tagged ‘Portuguese cooking’

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.


Febras de Porco Grelhadas (Grilled Pork Cutlets) with Massa de Pimentão (Sweet Red Pepper Paste) and Arroz de Manteiga (Buttered Rice)

Massa de Pimentão is a flavorful, salt-cured rub made from sweet red peppers and is best made at the end of summer when an abundance of peppers are ripening in the garden.  “But, it’s not summer,” I hear you protest.  “Ahh,” I reply, “I’m still using my last jar of Massa that I made last summer.”  What would I do if I hadn’t married into a Portuguese family?  I suppose not have all that sun-riped, organic pepper goodness all winter and spring.  Shiver.

First for the Massa de Pimentão.  When August comes again, I’ll post step-by-step instructions.  In the meantime, you can purchase it at a Portuguese market.  If you can’t wait, it’s easy enough to make from scratch from supermarket wares.  You’ll need some sweet red peppers, which is classic.  I’ve also had success with other pepper colors and hot peppers, but the final product will have a vastly different flavor.  Core, slice, place in a colander, and cover them completely in salt.  I’m talking pounds of salt.  Allow to to sit, drain, and desiccate.  After a few days, remove the shriveled peppers and shake off the crazy excess of salt.  Grind in a food processor until it’s a paste.  I store the stuff in an old glass jar that has been run through my dishwasher’s sanitize cycle with a healthy measure of olive oil on top.  I’d imagine hot water bath canning would work well, too.  It will keep in the refrigerator for many months.  Don’t worry if the olive oil turns whitish.  That often happens in cold temperatures.  Ps. “Homestyle Portuguese Cooking” offers a detailed recipe with exact measurements on p.166.

Use the Massa on just about anything pork.  I also think it’s good on chicken and beef.  Just take out a spoonful or so and rub it on.  Remember that it’s salty stuff so you won’t need any extra salt.  If the olive oil on top gets low, add some more to cover.

Then grill, saute, or roast as you normally would.

The closest recipe to tonight’s Pork Chop dinner is written on  p.100 of “Homestyle Portuguese Cooking.”  We served ours with Arroz de Manteiga, which is Buttered Rice, on p.145 and a simple spring salad.

Molho de Ovos (Eggs Poached in Wine Sauce)

A simple meal served with a simple green salad and bread, but the flavors are anything but simple! The eggs were laid this morning by our ladies and the freshness makes for perfect poaching. If only our spring peas were ready for harvest!

This is our family’s variation, but “Homestyle Portuguese Cooking” offers another recipe on p.157. The recipe is very forgiving:  If you like more sausage, add more sausage!  If you want some other vegetables, add them to the poaching liquid!  Don’t like peas, don’t use them!

Molho de Ovos

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or to taste (Remember that the chouriço will be quite salty)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 6″ piece of chouriço, halved and sliced into 1/2 chunks.  You can substitute linguinça or chorizo or even Italian sausage, but it will have a different flavor.
  • 1/2 tsp paprika or smoked Spanish paprika, depending on what flavor you prefer
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup wine (I used red today because it’s what was already open, but I prefer white)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas (I recommend either direct from your garden or frozen because fresh supermarket peas are too starchy)
  • 1-2 eggs per person (up to 8 eggs)

Saute onion and salt in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and chourico and cook until browned. Add paprika, bay leaf, wine, and peas. Let simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. If too much liquid has evaporated add some water enough to poach the eggs. Crack eggs into a separate dish and then gently place them in broth. Poach for 3-8 minutes, depending on how done you want them.



Migas Gatas (Cat’s Panada), Cenoura com Limão (Lemon Carrots), and Lavadores (Washboard Cookies)

Here’s what’s for dinner tonight courtesy of “Homestyle Portuguese Cooking.”  Everything is northeast local except for the salt cod, olives, and olive oil.  Great use of old bread, the last of our storage carrots and potatoes, and the fruits of our indoor lemon tree!  Serve with a simple green salad.

  • Cat’s Panada or Bread Soup with Salt Cod (Migas Gatas):  p.46 + Boil Some Potatoes with the Salt Cod
  • Lemon Carrots (Cenoura com Limão):  p.155
  • Washboard Cookies (Lavadores):  p.187

Now for dessert… These Portuguese “washboards” strongly remind me of a recipe my Italian Great-Grandmother used to make, except that she would add anise.  I took a bite and the taste and texture transported me to family reunions as a little girl.  These make the perfect afternoon snack with an espresso or cup of tea.

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