A delicious white crab gazpacho and a steaming flavorful seafood stew make the perfect Portuguese dinner party. Crab is a favorite shellfish of the Portuguese, and one of the most famous dishes is santola no carro–a creamy crab salad served in its shell. This gazpacho recipe, from my friend and chef Fausto Airoldi, takes all those flavors and plunks them in the middle of this lesser-known but utterly refreshing soup.
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PORTUGUESE WHITE GAZPACHO WITH CRAB
Serves: 4 to 6
For the White Gazpacho:
1½ c ¾-inch cubes of day-old rustic white bread, crust removed
2/3 c (3 ounces) unsalted blanched whole almonds
1 small fennel bulb (about 6 ounces), stalks and core removed, bulb chopped; reserve a few of the frilly fronds for garnish
½ c chopped sweet onion
½ seedless English cucumber, peeled and chopped
Leaves from 4 fresh oregano sprigs
¼ c plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Crab Salad:
1½ c jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over and drained well
½ small carrot, peeled and minced
½ stalk celery, minced
1 T brandy or tawny Port
1 t Piri-Piri Sauce or store-bought hot sauce, or to taste
1/3 c mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tender baby salad greens (optional)
- To make the white gazpacho, soak the bread cubes in cold water until softened, about 5 minutes. Squeeze dry with your hands.
- Toss the almonds into a blender and pulse into a fine powder. Drop in the fennel, onion, cucumber, oregano, and 1½ cups water and buzz on high until liquefied. Add the wet bread, oil, and vinegar and whir again until the mixture is as smooth as possible. Put the blender canister, covered, in the fridge for 3 hours, or up to 6 hours.
- Meanwhile, toss together the crab, carrot, celery, brandy, and piri-piri sauce in a small bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, fold the mayonnaise into the crab mixture and season with salt and pepper. If you want it a bit creamier, plop in another tablespoon or so of the mayonnaise.
- Whir the gazpacho in the blender for a few seconds to froth it again. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour it into a pitcher. Make a small bed of greens in the center of chilled bowls, top with the crab, and poke in a bit of fennel frond. Place the bowls in front of your guests and pour the gazpacho around the crab.
A cataplana, a fixture in the Algarve, is kind of a spiritual cousin to the pressure cooker. Shaped like a giant clam, the hinged pan clamps down during cooking, locking in the juices of its contents. When carried to the table and popped open, it fills the room with steam redolent of the sea. If you’re bereft of a cataplana, a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid works perfectly, if less attractively. I first had this meaty cataplana 12 years ago in Bridgewater, Connecticut, of all places, at the home of my friends Manny Almeida and Kevin Bagley. Manny, who’s from the same Azorean island as my family, just whipped it up one summer evening. I’ve since had it many times in Portugal, most memorably at an ocean-side joint in the town of Sagres, just east of the vertiginous promontory where Henry the Navigator supposedly built a school and shipyard for his sailors.
CLAMS & SAUSAGES IN A CATAPLANA
3 T olive oil
8 oz chouriço, linguiça, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into ¼-inch coins
One ¼-inch-thick slice presunto, Serrano ham, or prosciutto, trimmed of excess fat and cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 medium yellow onions, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into thin half-moons
1 Turkish bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained and chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
4 pounds small clams, such as cockles, manila, butter, or littlenecks, scrubbed and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Heat the oil in a large cataplana or a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Dump in the chouriço (or dry-cured Spanish chorizo) and presunto (or Serrano ham, prosciutto) and cook, stirring occasionally, until touched with brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium; drop in the onions and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, the wine, and paprika. Discard any clams that feel heavy (which means they’re full of sand), have broken shells, or don’t close when tapped. Plonk the clams into the pot and turn the heat to high. If using a cataplana, lock it and cook 10 to 12 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the clams open. If using a Dutch oven, cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the clams pop open, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Carry the cataplana triumphantly to the table, making sure everyone’s watching, then release the lid. Bask in the applause. Discard the bay leaf and toss out any clams that refuse to pop open. Season with a few grinds of pepper, shower with parsley, and ladle the stew into wide shallow bowls. Oh, and have a big bowl on hand for the shells.
Photos © 2009 Nuno Correia. All rights reserved.