52 weeks of cooking – Portuguese
You know those dishes you’ve tasted while on vacation that are so fantastic they stick in your memory forever? I’ve got a few of those and most of the time I can recreate them to some degree, but when the name of the dish is vague and the language barrier so vast it makes it that much more difficult.
I’ve been to Faial Island twice, both times with Class Afloat, it’s part of the island group belonging to the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. The first time I went a fellow crew member had been there before and recommended a restaurant to the crew, but not the students so we could have a quite place to go. Depending on the size of a port you might not run into students, but Horta is very small and there are only so many restaurants open for dinner. Upon reading the menu everything sounded very simple, it had things like: assorted local cheese, bread, roast beef with potatoes, grilled fish, roasted quail, fried calamari. There was no way to discern what flavors might accompany these dishes, it might have said in Portuguese but I couldn’t read it.
We got the roasted quail as an appetizer and it doesn’t even matter what I got for dinner because this dish stole the meal. I can’t even begin to tell you what spices were rubbed on it, but holy darn it was great, we were fighting over the oil drippings on the bottom of the platter. They were tart with a warming spice and a sharp bite, juicy tender fall off the bone amazing little roasted quails.
When I returned to Horta the following year I headed straight for that restaurant and ordered the quail as a main along with some bread to sop up the oily juices. And no way was I going to share.
I’ve spent a long time thinking about that dish and wondering what went in it, I think I’ve finally found something that resembles it, not the same, but as close as I’m ever going to get. I served my chicken with a grain medley and sautéed broccoli with anchovies and olive juice.