George Mendes’ Manila Clams in Madeira
Last week The Lovage attended a cooking demo with Michelin-starred chef George Mendes of Aldea. The demonstration was part of an afternoon of tasting Madeira, including some sips of Pereira D’Oliveira Boal vintage 1908! (I may no longer be living on the Iberian Peninsula, but I can still reap the rewards of its culinary and viticultural gems!)
The nuances of the Madeiras—from the grassy-nosed Justino’s to the gamey ’96 Colheita Single Cask Verdelho—were eye-opening, and quickly highlighted that, though delicious in food, this Portuguese wine should also be sipped.
(The Morrell household is never without a bottle of Blandy’s Malmsey, which my mother uses religiously while cooking. When her chicken is resting after roasting, my mother pours a cup of Madeira in with the drippings in the pan and reduces the liquid on the stovetop. This pan jus becomes our “gravy.”)
I’ve long known that my pantry is not properly stocked without a bottle of Madeira, but before Monday’s demo, I wouldn’t have thought of using Madeira with shellfish. Chef Mendes used the versatile Portuguese wine with shrimp and clams, and the latter was the recipe that really got my attention for its impressive flavors and simplicity. Also, it didn’t hurt that it solidified my appreciation of clams, which have long been my least favorite shellfish.
Manila Clams Bulhao Pato
Serves 4 as an appetizer
32 Manila clams (8 per person)
3 cloves sliced garlic, or more to taste
Several sprigs of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Blandy’s 5 year old Sercial
Over medium heat, sweat olive oil with garlic and clams in an uncovered pot. When the garlic is cooked through but before it gains any color, add madeira and cover. After a minute or two peek in to see if any clams have opened; remove any that have. As Chef Mendes says, as soon as they are open they are ready to be eaten; don’t cook them further. Add the cilantro to the pot and as soon as it wilts remove the pot from the flame and pour the madeira, garlic, cilantro and olive oil “sauce” over the clams. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a little more olive oil. Serve with a piece of bread.
Note: If Manila clams aren’t available from your fishmonger, substitute Little Necks or cockles. This recipe couldn’t be more flexible or simple.
Madeira available from Morrell & Company.
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