When living in Cascais Portugal, at the end of each day I would see people gather at the local seaside bars and cafes and snack on clams Cataplana and drink beer. I quickly joined in, and love the memories I have around the Cataplana.
I brought home a Cataplana dish and we cook Mussels Cataplana regularly as a main meal.
In the old days, the ‘cataplana’ was used by huntsmen to cook their meals over charcoal fire.
I realize most people will not be able to head off to Portugal to buy a Cataplana dish! Don’t worry, I have made this dish in a pot and it is just as good. Do not add any liquid you will be amazed how much comes from the mussels.
What To Prep In Advance:
Scrub the mussels to get any bits of dirt off the shell, then trim the beards and rinse them well. Discard any mussels that have broken shells or are not tightly closed. Set aside in a bowl in the fridge until ready to use. I will also demonstrate how to clean the mussels in our culinary adventure.
Here is a good site for shellfish food safety
Portuguese Cataplana or a large pot with a lid.
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Portuguese Cataplana Mussels
Recipe courtesy of Paula Mohammed and In My Kitchen Inc.
3 lbs Mussels
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 lg Sweet Onion thinly sliced
50 g smoked Ham (I like to use Praga/Prague Ham)
1 "stick" Spanish Chorizo med or regular spice level
1/4 tsp Paprika (I prefer to use a mild chorizo and the Spanish pimentón paprika)
1-2 sprigs of parsley
Wash your mussels, and remove the "beards" keep your shellfish in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.
Thinly slice the onion, chop the ham and chorizo into small pieces. If you can have your ham freshly sliced at the deli ask for one 1/4" thick piece of ham.
Add olive oil to your cataplana ( a large clam shaped frying pan with a tightly fitting lid) or pot and heat on med heat.
Add the onions to the pan, and cook them for approx 5 minutes until they become translucent but do not brown the onions. Add the paprika and some pepper.
Add the ham and chorizo to the pan and then add your mussels with 1-2 sprigs of parsley. Cover the cataplana or pot and cook for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your mussels
The key to this dish is you serve it immediately, opening the "clam" or lifting the lid at the table so everyone can enjoy the wafts of flavour that escape upon opening.
Traditionally everyone eats the clams/mussels straight from the pot/cataplana. We often serve this as our main course and I serve it from the table into bowls. If you happen to have leftovers, take the mussels out of their shells and discard the shells, keep the mussels and broth in an airtight container in the fridge for no longer than one day. I will serve the leftovers tossed with some olive oil and pasta. But really the mussels are best eaten fresh.
It has been said that to be a true Cataplana dish, the mussels or clams are positioned with their "hinges" down in a circular shape starting with one mussel in the middle.