Wednesday, July 07, 2010

HFF Quickie: Highlights from Portugal

I'll write a more extensive essay about my travels, but in the mean time here are some culinary highlights from Portugal, an absolutely fantastic country.

Leitao: The signature dish of central Portugal, Leitao is a young (6-8 week) suckling pig rubbed heavily with a proprietary blend of black pepper, white pepper, and salt and then roasted in a special oven. Its crispy skin, tender meat, and copious fat paired with roast potatoes and sliced oranges is simply fantastic. Traditionally paired with tinto espumante, a red/pink sparkling wine made from indigenous Touriga Nacional or Baga, it's a delicious colon-clogging adventure.

Migas: Not a damn thing like the Spanish version, Portuguese Migas is peasant food cum laude. Stale bread crumbs sauteed in olive oil and/or pork fat and then mashed with cauliflower, garlic, and any of a number of vegetables, the texture takes some getting used to but the flavor is rich, dense and transcendent.

Perceves: The fabled gooseneck barnacles of Galicia, perceves are a distinctive regional treat. The barnacles themselves bear more than a cursory resemblance to iguana feet. You pinch the rubbery sheath, twist and pull it off to reveal the sweet white flesh underneath. Its texture is similar to lobster with a simply salty freshness.

Bacalhau: Fuck the Spanish, the Portuguese have salt cod fucking pwned. I had bacalhau only three different ways (they say there are over 300), but all three were delicious. First, we had a pretty simple bacalhau roasted with tomatoes and garlic--very tasty. The next preparation was pretty esoteric but really fucking good: the cod was topped with ham and pineapple and then baked in a rich cheese sauce. That might've been a particularly unique dish as no other Portuguese person we talked to seemed to know what that preparation was. Last, there was a bacalhau side dish consisting of shredded bacalhau baked in a cazuela with fried potatoes and cheese. Pretty much the best mac and cheese ever.

Black Pig: The same Iberian pig as the Spanish jamon iberico, when made into the Portuguese presunto it is the bomb. Tender and fatty, it's some of the best ham in the world. The black pig can also be roasted (impossibly tender)or fried with clams for the southern Portuguese dish porco a alentejana.

So yeah, some highlights. More detailed analysis to come.

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