Shoreline Stew: Pork, Clams & Periwinkles

This savory medley of land and sea combines tender pork with the briny, sweet flavors of periwinkles and Manila clams in a lightly spiced wine and tomato broth. It is a variation of “Clams Cataplana,” a classic Portuguese pork & clams stew. Aside from the addition of the periwinkles, the ingredient that most distinguishes this version from the classic is the inclusion of tomatoes in the sauce; the original swims solely in a seasoned white or light red wine. I’m partial to this version, but T prefers the original. We’ll do it that way next time. The traditional cataplana is served with roasted or pan-fried potato slices, and a crusty loaf to catch every drop of sauce. I also wanted a taste of something with a bite, some bitterness to counter the rich stew. I devised a simple tian with potatoes and Chinese mustard greens that gave us both roasted potatoes and a bitter green (next post).
Cleaned periwinkles Periwinkle meat

The periwinkles were a first for us, and we weren’t sure what to expect. But after Laurie’s enthusiastic endorsement in her pre-Christmas “Seven Days of Seafood,” we’ve been on the look-out for the tiny crustaceans at the fishmongers in Chinatown. Most periwinkles in the U.S. are exported from Maine (I forot to ask if these were as well), which was a surprise to T, who grew up there and never once tried a periwinkle. A tour around the web turned up other enthusiastic periwinkle fans, including Jimmy at Fishin’ Fool Jimmy’s, who had recipes and valuable advice on foraging and harvesting periwinkles — free seafood, you gotta love that! — along the U.S. (and Canadian) East Coast and Southeast marshes. In Europe, look for bigorneaux or littorines; and in the U.K., winkles.

The periwinkles resemble nothing more than a tiny snail, and were fairly easy to clean: a couple of changes of fresh water, and a quick tap of the shell to see if the animal responds. Like a clam, the periwinkle will tighten the hard bit of shell, or operculum, covering its entrance. Because they were so tiny, we added them to the stew in the last 10 minutes of cooking so they wouldn’t overcook. Though they were a bit tricky to remove from their shell — T had much more success than I in using a pick — in a pinch, a quick, light tap between the jaws of a nutcracker released the meat. The periwinkles were sweeter than the clams, with a delicate brininess and mild chew. I would like to try them again in a New England style chowder recipe or as a fritter.

I’m open to just about any preparation for these new-found crustaceans — what’s your favorite recipe for winkles? Or what did you think of them the first time you tried them?

Shoreline stew with Roast potatoes & bitter mustard tian

The Sauce:
1 small chourico, or chorizo (about 2-3oz or 60-85g), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 lb. (450g) pork tenderloin or shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small bay leaves
3 tsp. sweet or hot smoked paprika
(if using sweet, can add a pinch of a dried red pepper such as cayenne, Aleppo or Korean gochugaru)
12-15oz. (340-420g) chopped and seeded tomatoes
1- 1.5 cups (240-350ml) dry white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinto Gris
1/4 cup (10g) minced flat-leaf parsley, divided
sea salt (may not be needed, depending on the saltiness of the chourico)

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, fry chourico in a smidgen of oil, until browned. Remove to bowl. Tip out oil in pan, but do not wash. In same pan, add 2 TBL. olive oil and brown pork in 2-3 batches, removing each batch to the bowl with chouricos to keep warm.

In the same pan, turn heat down to medium-low and saute onions until translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and bay leaves, and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add paprika and peppers, if using, stir through and cook 1 minute. Turn heat back up to medium-high and add wine, tomatoes and half the amount of parsley. Bring sauce just to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes while you prepare the crustaceans.

The crustaceans:
2-3 lbs. (1-1.5kg) Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
(throw away any that do not close when tapped)
1lb (450g) periwinkles, cleaned (optional — use larger amount of clams if not using periwinkles)
Lemon quarters

Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Bring heat up to medium again, return chouricos and pork to pan, and add clams, stir through and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add periwinkles, cover again and cook another 8 minutes. Without opening cover, turn off heat and keep pan covered while plates/bowls are warmed and table is set. Just before serving, add last of parsley and squeeze lemon juice over.

See also Portuguese Bean Soup