Chef George Mendes of Aldea left French cuisine behind to focus on the flavors of his mother's Portuguese kitchen. Here's how.


Before Chef George Mendes opened Aldea in New York City in 2009, he was a relative unknown, even though he'd worked in some of the world's most exalted haute-French kitchens with chefs like Alain Ducasse, Roger Vergé and David Bouley. Aldea has made Mendes's name—but not with haute French food. Instead, he prepares globally inflected interpretations of rustic Portuguese dishes, such as his signature "duck rice," a complex reinvention of a simple dish his mother used to cook.

Why hasn't Portuguese food had a champion like him in the US before? "Portugal never had a food revolution, like France and Spain," he explains. "But now, chefs there are pushing the cuisine." F&W does a little pushing of its own to create simple versions of Mendes's best Portuguese recipes.

Chef Way: Homemade Pickled Vegetables, Braised Pork Belly and Clams

Chef Braised Pork with Clams.

© Jerry Errico

At Aldea, George Mendes pickles his own vegetables a day in advance. He braises the pork and steams the clams separately before combining them on the plate.

Easy Way: One-Pot Braised Pork with Clams

Chef Braised Pork with Clams.

© David Malosh

For home cooks, jarred Italian pickles easily replace the labor-intensive DIY variety. One-pot cooking further streamlines the dish.

Chef Way: Apricot Puree and Homemade Duck Confit

Chef Rice with Duck and Apricots.

© Jerry Errico

In his signature dish, Mendes flavors rice, poached duck breast and homemade duck confit with a puree of dried apricots cooked with Madeira and sherry vinegar.

Easy Way: Rice with Duck and Dried Apricots

Rice with Duck and Apricots.

© David Malosh

Bits of diced dried apricots add sweetness to this simplified version of Mendes's duck-and-rice dish, which forgoes the duck breast and uses store-bought confit instead.