I’m going to go down a path I don’t typically go down when writing these blog posts. Being stationed in Portugal, and exploring her nooks and crannies, I often find myself obligated to ‘educate’ and provide useful information to readers of DaHungryCouple posts. But that is NOT what I want to do today. Today, I’m going to discuss my emotional response to my first cataplana experience, and the joy it brought me to add this marvellous cooking vessel to our kitchenware. Please see below for further reading concerning the historical and cultural importance of the cataplana.
On our first ‘research trip’ (which is just a polite term for mini-vacation, right?) to the Algarve, we were looking for unique dining options, and luckily stumbled upon just such a restaurant, situated within a cave overlooking the sea. Things had already started off well, but then we saw they had a series of cataplana dishes. In the North of Portugal, cataplana dishes are popular, but it is not the region where cataplana cooking was created, so we don’t see those dishes on menus with as much frequency as one might find in the South.
Without a doubt, cataplana cooking was on the menu for that day! We opted for an octopus-focused dish and were not disappointed. In fact, what we found was that the cataplana allowed for extremely tender meat and an infusion of flavour that wouldn’t happen in quite the same way as with other cooking methods. The octopus was soft to the cut, the scent erupted from the cataplana as it was opened, and the seafood flavour was infused through every ingredient incorporated into the dish…it was exactly the kind of dining experience one could hope for when exposed to a new cooking style or utensil.
But it didn’t end there! @hangrywifey dug into her trusty ‘research mode’ and discovered a location in the Algarve where we could purchase our own handcrafted cataplana! So we drove there, parked, and followed the sounds of sharp banging to a workshop filled with copper products and cataplanas, joyously purchasing the new addition to our family, and feeling deeply satisfied with the purchase.
You’d think that this story would end with us rushing home to Porto to crack open our new friend and break it in on our induction cooker, right? Wrong! We’ve been way too occupied with other things to cook with it yet, but we are still bandying around the idea of making a cataplana cooking video and subsequent post on how much pleasure our personal cataplana is bringing us! I know it’s a small thing, but isn’t life about enjoying the small things?
For me, I’m super excited about the euphoria our legal Portuguese pot will cause. For sure, brah.
For further reading: