Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Braised pork with clams

Following up on the promise I made to post some recipes, here is a dish we had as a pre-Thanksgiving warm-up the day before the main turkey event.

This is inspired by something I ate at a wonderful Portugese restaurant in the Channel Islands, and which I tried to recreate from memory many years later so I won't make any claims of authenticity. Would you believe that I had to wait until we reached Canada to have a proper go at it, because I just could not get hold of clams in Guernsey?

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil
Lean pork, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
Tomato ketchup
1 or 2 tins of clams, drained
Cream
Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt
Butter

Quantities

You'll notice the above list is a bit light on quantities, because this is a "seat of the pants" recipe, not something from a book.

Basically, you want enough pork for a meal for however many people you are cooking for, and roughly the same amount of potatoes. Enough clams to make a noticeable contribution without overwhelming the dish. When cooking for two people I use one tin. For a larger quantity I use two.

Method

Cook this dish in a large pan or frying pan with a lid.

Fry the onion gently in some olive oil until it softens and starts to go golden.

Turn the heat to high, add the pork to the pan and fry until it changes colour.

Add the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes start to mash down. The pork and tomatoes together should provide enough liquid, but if the mixture looks dry and starts catching on the bottom of the pan then add a splash of water.

Once you have some liquid coating the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down very low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender - at least one hour. If you can leave it going very gently for two hours then do so.

Timing is not too critical for this dish, it is something you can comfortably leave on a low heat for ages, or even prepare ahead of time, turn off the heat, and resume cooking later on.

While the pork is cooking, place the diced potatoes in a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Timing depends on the variety of potato. You want them to have started cooking but still be firm, not about to flake at the edges.

Drain the potatoes, and fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter until crisp and golden. Take off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, back at the pork...

About half an hour before you are ready to serve, add a generous squirt of tomato ketchup to the pork, enough to thicken the sauce a bit.

Stir in the clams.

Ten minutes before serving, stir in a dash of cream. Bring the heat up to medium and add the cooked potatoes. Mix everything thoroughly and simmer to ensure the potatoes are hot through (depends how long you left them to one side, and this will depend on how good your timing is), then serve.

Delicious with a simple green salad, fresh-baked olive bread...and a nice Chianti

11 comments:

  1. Ahhhhh! Another recipe I'm psyched!! This sounds yummy (only I've never had a clam before are they good?)I have to say the level of culinary mastery required to pull this meal off is well beyond my capabilities and better left to my husband-but now I know what to ask him to make me for dinner.
    P.S.-I love the bit about a 'Nice Chianti' LOL

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  2. Umm, this sounds DELICIOUS!

    Thanks!

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  3. Wow, Ian -- that really sounds delish! And I absolutely despise anything even remotely related to seafood. But somehow I get the feeling I can deal with the clams portion of this meal. I might have to try this recipe sometime.

    I'm the cook in the house, and the way you've written this up seems fairly by-the-book without, you know, being from a book. :)

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  4. Yes everyone, it is yummy.

    Sam, I'd say my culinary mastery is about 10% technique and 90% bluff and confidence. Dishes like this really aren't demanding in terms of expertise, which is why they feature highly on the family menu.

    David, the clams are quite a subtle part of the dish, more a matter of adding flavour to the sauce than anything substantial.

    So, I guess you wouldn't be interested in plain-grilled lobster, salad and fries, with a nicely chilled Chardonnay then?

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  5. Hi Ian,
    What a neat recipe. Now then, speaking of clams, have you seen or, good grief, eaten the legendary British Columbia clam named the 'gooieduck', or geoduck?

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  6. Ha! Yes, Gary, I've seen the geoduck, or at least the water spouts they send up as they bury themselves if you walk too close on the sand.

    We were camping at Rathtrevor a few years ago and went walking on the beach at a very low tide. Suddenly one of the kids got squirted up the bum as they walked along. Can't remember who it was, but I remember the screams! Once we realised what was happening though, we spent a merry hour "clam baiting"...finding the tell-tale pock marks in the sand and stepping close to make them send up a fountain.

    Never eaten one, though, and don't intend to. It doesn't look too appetising.

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  7. Hi Ian,
    I've seen a 'gooey duck', another term for it, up close and personal, in Sechelt on the 'Sunshine Coast'. Not a pretty sight!
    I think I'd better go to bed. Of course, you would know I'm 8 time zones in front.
    Cheers...

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  8. I'm inclined to think the 90% that isn't technique is less bluff and more instinct-I've noticed that some people just seem to have a 'feel' for cooking-and can make a tasty meal out of whatever odd and ends are on hand...I've always wanted to be able to cook like that lol.

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  9. Yeah, I know all about the time difference Gary. And I've seen photos - those things are ugly!

    Sam, I think any 'feel' I've got started off from following simple recipes and getting the confidence to branch out and not be a slave to the instructions. Made some mistakes along the way, but all it really comes down to is lots of unglamorous practice.

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  10. Wow, it made my mouth water. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe. I appreciated your invaluable thoughts on my blog about critiques and being wise in which ones would work versus others that wouldn't.

    Have a great day!! :)

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  11. You're welcome, Elizabeth. And my comment about critiques was a very important learning point for me. Something that can look a lot like the second scenario in that great video, but which comes from a position of informed empowerment rather than denial.

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I love comments. Please feel free to join in the discussion.

I also try to respond to comments. I usually do so during the early evening (Pacific time) which may be many hours away from now!

So if you leave a comment and return some time later and I haven't responded yet, please don't think I'm ignoring you. I'm not. Honest.

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