Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Memories from Portugal

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 Memories from Portugal This warm and hearty Portuguese chicken dish brings back happy memories.
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Order Ana Patuleia Ortins's "Portuguese Homestyle Cooking" from Amazon.com in paperback for $15.72, a 37 percent discount.
Memories from Portugal

As I wrote in A Foodie in Portugal earlier this winter, it only took me about a week in Portugal to fall in love with the food, the wine, the land and the people of this amiable country, and I came back home eager to keep my memories alive by cooking Portuguese dishes often.

Unfortunately, this good intention soon ran up against a practical barrier: After a few quick (and reasonably successful) attempts to replicate or play creative riffs on some of the Portuguese dishes I had enjoyed during my December visit, I started running out of ideas. And as it turns out, Portuguese cookbooks in English don't exactly grow on trees.

Google helped, as it so often does: A search for "Portugal recipes" turned up a cool 2,660,000 hits, enough to keep me busy for a long, long time. But that's a bit like drinking water from a firehose, and sometimes even high-tech foodies like you or me still enjoy the simple pleasure of spreading a good cookbook out on the kitchen counter and going to work.

Off to the public library I went, and found exactly one Portuguese cookbook at our local branch. Happily, it's an excellent one, and should keep me busy with enough new recipes to last for a long time. "Portuguese Homestyle Cooking," by first-generation Portuguese-American Ana Patuleia Ortins, features a couple of hundred appetizing recipes in its 256 pages, along with lots of photos and the author's remembrances of growing up and eating in an immigrant family.

Today's recipe, Galinha Estufada, literally translated as "stewed chicken," is true comfort food, but its Latin warmth, color and flavor are a far cry from pallid Northern boiled hen; a cousin of Spanish arroz con pollo plus an exotic whiff of pilaf, it's a long-simmered, hearty dish of chicken pieces and rice, with tomatoes, peas and lots of garlic. My version is below; it's fairly closely based on Ms. Ortins' recipe with the usual irresistible variations, restated in my words based on my cooking experience.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 medium sweet yellow or white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
14.5-ounce (411g) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon (8g) paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cut-up frying hen or 6-8 chicken thighs or other parts
3 cups water
1 cup rice
Salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup fresh shelled or frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

PROCEDURE:

1. Peel and chop the onions; peel and mince the garlic. Put both with the oil in a heavy, deep skillet or dutch oven and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and aromatic, five minutes or so.

2. Open the tomatoes and chop them coarsely (or use fresh tomatoes in season, peeled, seeded and chopped). Put the tomatoes with all their juice, the bay leaf and paprika in with the onions and garlic. Cover the pan tightly, reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes.

3. Pour in the wine - Vinho Verde would be ethnically appropriate, but any dry white will do. Turn heat back up to medium-high, simmer for a moment or two, then put in the chicken pieces and the water. (Skin the chicken pieces If you're concerned about the fat, but frankly, leaving it on makes for a richer-textured finished dish.) Bring back to a boil, then re-cover, turn heat back to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the rice and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover, simmer for another 20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked. Stir in the peas and the chopped parsley, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes more. The rice should absorb all the liquid, and the chicken should be falling off the bone.

VARIATIONS: Ortins suggests making an alternate version of this dish with four medium potatoes, peeled and quartered, in place of the rice and peas, otherwise following the same instructions. Actually, I learned to my pleased surprise that cooks in Portugal, who clearly never heard of Atkins, often serve both rice and potatoes in the same meal, and that should work, too.

Ortins also notes that, for those who like crispy chicken, you can take the chicken pieces out before adding the rice or potatoes to the pot, then crisp the chicken in a 350F (175C) oven while the rice cooks on the stovetop, bringing the meat and the rest of the dish back together on a serving platter.

WINE MATCH: This dish would work well with either an aromatic white or a light, fruity but acidic red. A Vinho Verde or an Alentejo red from Portugal would be perfect, although it made a mighty fine cross-Latin match with a particularly pleasant red from Northern Italy's Lombardia, the Villa 2001 "Gradoni" Terre di Franciacorta recently featured in California Wine Club's International Selections.

BUY THE BOOK ONLINE:
Now that I've spattered a little tomato sauce and smeared a little garlic on the library book, I'm inclined to buy my own. Ana Patuleia Ortins's "Portuguese Homestyle Cooking" is available from Amazon.com in paperback for $15.72, a 37 percent discount. Purchases made using this exact link,
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1566564085/robingarrswineloA/
will return a small commission to us at WineLoversPage.com.

Amazon is also currently offering the hardcover version through associated used-book vendors, but the only one currently available is offered for $78.90. I don't think so. You may also be able to buy it direct from Ms. Ortins' Website,
http://www.portuguesecooking.com/

DISCUSS COOKING IN OUR ONLINE FORUM:
If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this article or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by the Food & Drink section of our online WineLovers Community, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Memories from Portugal,"
http://community.netscape.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?
nav=messages&tsn=1&tid=3117&webtag=ws-winelovers

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at wine@wineloverspage.com.

PRINT OUT A COPY OF THIS ARTICLE:
Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/print060216.html


Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Star anise (Feb. 9, 2006)
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tsfl060209.phtml

Wine Advisor FoodLetter archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/foodlist.phtml

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/thelist.shtml


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Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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