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Pork Stew with Cockles and Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

This combination of briny cockles and smoky pork is traditional in southern Portugal's Alentejo region, though the fresh red chiles in the sauce here add a distinctive twist (for a sweeter variation, use red bell peppers instead).

Plus: More Pork Recipes and Tips

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6

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  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds 1-inch-thick boneless pork blade chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 very large onion, very finely chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves—4 minced, 1 whole
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large bay leaves
  • 3 large thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 pounds kale, inner ribs and stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
  • Spicy Red Pepper Sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 pounds cockles, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro


  1. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Working in 3 batches, sear the pork over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 7 minutes per batch; you should not need to add oil between batches. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a platter and season with salt.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Add half each of the minced onion and garlic to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook over moderately high heat until reduced by a third, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the casserole. Whisk in the tomato paste, then add the water, lemon zest, bay leaves, thyme, paprika and a generous pinch of salt. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the casserole and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Skim the fat from the stew.
  3. Meanwhile, brush the baguette slices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet; bake until lightly toasted. Rub the toasts with the whole garlic clove while they're still warm.
  4. Add the kale to the stew, a handful at a time; let wilt slightly and add more. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Spicy Red Pepper Sauce; season with pepper. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.
  5. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining minced onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cockles and the remaining Spicy Red Pepper Sauce, cover and cook until most of the shells have opened, about 4 minutes. Pour the cockles and their juices into the pork stew and gently stir. Cook for 1 minute, or until heated through. Ladle the stew into shallow bowls. Top with the cilantro and serve with the garlic toasts.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.

Suggested Pairing

Alentejo is a significant wine region, producing medium-weight, lively, rustic bottlings from the Tempranillo grape, known there as Aragonez. For this spicy stew, a lightly herbal blend pairs well.

Contributed By Photo © Quentin Bacon Published October 2005

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