It’s said that Portuguese cuisine is “stewy.” This may be correct, but a stew is nothing without a certain level of flavor and a solid base of ingredients. Also, because Portugal is far more rural than Spain, dishes tend to fall into the simple and rustic sphere of cuisine as opposed to the sometimes elegant and sophisticated Spanish cuisine. As of late, my tastes have moved away from the “pack my plate full along with a side of the same” towards a more of a “put just enough on my plate but pack it with flavor, please” attitude. Quality above quantity is key, my friends. As I’ve gushed in the past, and will gush now as well as into the far future, Lauro’s perfect food taught me this.

Still stuck under the ceiling of, shall we say, a financial cloudy day, dinner choices needed to revolve around what we had on hand with the possible addition of a few dollars worth of extras to round out the rough edges. Having shrimp, linguiça, onions, garlic, Vinho Verde, short grain rice, tomatoes, and peas available, I knew that I could most likely conjure up another Portuguese dish that would be both filling and satisfying. Something…stewy!

Shrimp and Linguiça with Portuguese Style Rice and French Beans.

Shrimp and LinguiçaThe base of this dish is really the rice. I took to calling it Portuguese styled rice because it isn’t from any particular recipe but has some staple Portuguese flavors to tie it down. Primarily, the Vinho Verde gives the rice dish an almost tangy punch. The chopped onion and garlic give it a silky, savory, but not overtly strong flavor. I included for color and mild flavor chopped fresh tomatoes and peas. I wanted the rice to be flavorful, but mild as to lend itself to meld nicely with the strong flavors of the sausage and shrimp.

The french-cut green beans, known as haricot vert in French, serves as a fine dish of its own but also as a significant side to the mild rice. These beans are, as evidenced by my high frequency of use, a go-to dish of mine that is simple and so very tasty. After blanching the beans and shocking them in ice water, they go into into a hot sauté pan with olive oil and minced garlic. When sizzling, the beans are seasoned and tossed with the oil and garlic, and then the pan is removed from the heat. Quickly, I squeeze half a lemon’s worth of juice on top and toss again. Done!

The shrimp (marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice) and linguiça dish has an additional ingredient that I often unintentionally avoid: bell pepper – in this case, orange bell pepper. I have no idea why I don’t cook more with bell pepper, but I’ve been making purposeful strides to do so as of late, as evidenced by this dish. My wife, Kim, proclaims them to be her favorite vegetable, so, in turn, I probably should figure them in more often. This dish is finished quick, down and dirty using a cast iron skillet. Once the skillet becomes hot and almost smoking, I add some olive oil and quickly drop in the chopped peppers and sliced linguiça. In a matter of a minute or so, with some consistent stirring and moderate seasoning, the linguiça releases much of its flavor and the peppers become more tender. After another minute, once the charring begins, the shrimp are added and cooked at a high heat just until they turn pink and remain tender. Too long in the pan with the shrimp will guarantee a rubbery texture. After a quick squeeze of the other half of the lemon, the mix leaves the skillet into a serving vessel.

Plating was simple and rustic. Nothing needed to top another facet of the dish. Every part of the dish, side-by-side, complements one another perfectly. The flavor that ties the three dishes together is that of lemon. There is no lemon in the rice, but the wine takes care of that role enough to string everything together like a finely woven piece of clothing.

As I practice the cuisine of Portugal more and more, over and over, I’m beginning to understand clearly the roots of the flavors and the sources of the ingredients. History serves to not only educate, but to persist and to carry-on into the future. The history of food is no different – it spells out, sometimes in too cryptic of a manner, the origins and the persistence of culture. However, as opposed to reading about the tumult, exploration, and intellectual advancement of a culture, you can taste it.