Karl’s Portuguese Steamed Clams

Adapted from a Leite’s Culinaria recipe

Happiness for Jan is a pot of steamed clams and/or mussels. Since I am doing a Portuguese feast with a salt cod dish and caldo verde, I thought clams would go very well. The first dish I looked at was roast pork smothered in steamed clams. Jan was quick to reject this. She does not mind a little pork in her clams as a flavoring, but in her mind it is all about the clams.

Karl’s Portuguese Steamed Clams

Karl’s Portuguese Steamed Clams

The Portuguese love their steamed clams so much they have invented a unique cooking vessel to make them in, a cataplana. This device is like one wok on top of a second wok that clamps tightly together, so that you do not have to release the steam when you mix up the clams and sauce. You simply pick up the cataplana and shake the whole thing.

If you are not Portuguese it is unlikely that you will own one of these devices. You will have to make do with a Dutch oven and lift the lid to mix the clams into the sauce. The finished produce may not be the perfect Portuguese experience—the cataplana is opened at the table filling the room with the aroma of steamed clams—but it is still a fine dish.

The recipe I am adapting from was about 50/50 pork to clams. To please Jan, I am greatly reducing the quantity of Portuguese chouriço (chorizo in Spanish) and prosciutto. The pork is to enhance the clam’s flavor, not to bury it.

In San Jose, you may find Spanish chorizo at up-scale supermarkets and this may be used in a pinch, but Portuguese chouriço is harder to find. L & F Fish Market and Bacalhau Grill & Trade Rite Market are a block apart, on either side of 101. Both carry a wide selection of the specialty products that you need for Portuguese/Azores dishes. Do not substitute Mexican chorzo, unless you want to make something completely different.

After Dinner Note: This was the most successful dish of the evening. It was really, really good. Jan took the remaining clams, some of the broth and bread as her lunch the next day. Chris took the rest of the broth to use as the base for a jambalaya he was planning to make.

Karl’s Portuguese Steamed Clams


2 ounces chouriço about one inch of sausage (linguiça, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo may be used)
1 medium yellow onions
1 thin slice prosciutto
3 tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Turkish bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup dry white wine (I used Portuguese Groa Vasco)
½ tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp. white pepper
3 lb. small clams

2 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley


1. Slice the chouriço into ¼ inch slices and then slice across to make ¼ inch bars.

2. Cut the onion, pole to pole, into thin half moons.

3. Slice the prosciutto into ¼ inch shreds.

4. Peel and seed the tomatoes and chop them into a medium dice.

Tip: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Rinse and cut a cross-hatch the tomatoes on the end away from the stem. Blanch the tomatoes for two minutes to loosen the skin. Put the tomatoes in a bowl of cold water to stop them from over cooking. Cut the tomato in half crossways and scrape the seeds into a sieve set in a bowl. Press the jelly through the sieve and discard the seeds. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Reserve for later.

5. Put the oil into a large Dutch oven and brown the chouriço over a medium high heat. Remove the sausage to a plate.

6. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and bay leaf to the pot. Sauté the onions until they are just starting to pick up some color.

7. Add the prosciutto and garlic. Continue cooking for one minute, until fragrant.

8. Stir in the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, the wine, paprika and white pepper. Simmer for two minutes to meld the flavors.

9. Add the clams to the Dutch oven and increase the heat to high.

10. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the clams pop open, about 5 to 10 minutes.

11. Remove the bay leaf and any clams that did not open.

12. Garnish with parsley and serve with bread on the side to sop up the broth.

Tip: Have debris bowls scattered around the table for the shells.


Filed under Main Dishes, Seafood, Steaming, Stews

2 responses to “Karl’s Portuguese Steamed Clams

  1. Pingback: Karl’s Portuguese Salt Cod and Potato Casserole | Jabberwocky Stew

  2. Pingback: Karl’s Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale Soup) | Jabberwocky Stew

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