This Portuguese dish is named after the 19th-century Lisbon poet Bulhão Pato, a well-known gourmand, and today it is a popular first course in the capital's many tascas and restaurantes típicos. The Spanish, of course, make a similar dish, which they call almejas a la marinera, or clams "fisherman's style." It might mean spicy clams cooked with tomato and onion in Galicia; the addition of red bell pepper or even carrots in Bilbao; or white wine and garlic, with a few bread crumbs for thickening the pan juices, in Andalusia.
If you have sandy clams, place them in a large basin of salted water to cover and leave for about 2 hours, stirring around occasionally, so they will expel their sand. Drain and discard any open or broken clams before cooking. Serve with warm crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices.
1/3 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbs. fine dried bread crumbs, toasted
3 lb. small clams, preferably Manila, well scrubbed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a calderos or large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs and sauté until softened and pale gold, about 5 minutes. Add the clams, wine and water, cover and cook until the clams open, 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon the size of the clams. Discard any clams that failed to open.
Transfer the clams and pan juices to warmed soup bowls, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with the parsley and cilantro and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Spain & Portugal, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 2000).