PORK STEW WITH COCKLES AND SPICY RED PEPPER SAUCE (Portuguese, for six)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds 1 inch thick boneless pork blade chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 very large onion, very finely chopped
5 large garlic cloves, 4 minced, one whole
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-1/2 cups water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large bay leaves
3 large thyme sprigs
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 baguette, sliced ½ inch thick
1-1/2 pounds kale, inner ribs and stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds cockles, rinsed
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1.In a large, enameled cast iron casserole, heat ¼ cup of olive oil until shimmering. Working in 3 batches, sear the pork over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 7 minutes per batch; you should not need to add oil between batches. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a platter and season with salt.
2. Preheat the oven to 325*. Add half each of the minced onion and garlic to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook over moderately high heat until reduced by a third, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the casserole. Whisk in the tomato paste, then add the water, lemon zest, bay leaves, thyme, paprika and a generous pinch of salt. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the casserole and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Skim the fat from the stew.
3. Meanwhile, brush the baguette slices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet; bake until lightly toasted. Rub the toasts with the whole garlic clove while they’re still warm.
4. Add the kale to the stew, a handful at a time; let it wilt slightly and add more. Stir in ½ cup of the spicy red pepper sauce; season with pepper. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.
5. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining minced onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cockles and the remaining spicy red pepper sauce, cover and cook until most of the shells have opened, about 4 minutes. Pour the cockles and their juices into the pork stew and gently stir. Ladle the stew into shallow bowls. Top with the cilantro and serve with the garlic toasts.
NOTE: This combination of briny cockles and smoky pork is traditional in southern Portugal’s Alentejo region.
from Stanley Lobel, Food & Wine Magazine, October, 2005