Dining In: The Pressure Is On in the Algarve

A Portuguese dish of clams and sausage made in a pot with a fancy name.

By Chef David Lapham | Photography by Whitney Lawson

In southwestern Portugal, dishes prepared in a cataplana are everywhere. This traditional copper pot, shaped like a clamshell, creates a pressurized chamber that locks in the aromas and juices of its contents. Cataplana dishes are typically prepared directly on the stovetop; the most classic preparation is amêijoas na cataplana, a dish of clams with sausage. If you don’t have a cataplana available, don’t worry: A simple pot with a lid works like a charm.

Amêijoas na Cataplana

3 Tbsp olive oil

8 oz dry Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch coins

1 1/4 inch slice serrano or prosciutto ham, trimmed of excess fat and cut into cubes

2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin

1 bay leaf

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with reserved juices

1/4 cup dry white wine

4 lb littleneck clams (or similar hard-shell clams), scrubbed and rinsed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley

Lemon wedges for garnish

Heat oil in a large cataplana (or pot with tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and serrano and cook until slightly brown, about five minutes. Lower heat to medium and add onions, bay leaf and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions and garlic are soft, five to seven minutes. Stir in tomatoes and wine. Add clams and raise heat to high. If using a cataplana, lock it and cook seven to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally. (If using a regular pot, cover with lid and cook for the same time.) Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed (the chorizo, ham and clams vary in saltiness). To serve, open the cataplana, garnish stew with parsley and lemon wedges and ladle into wide shallow bowls. Or bring the closed cataplana to the table and open in front of guests for added drama, Algarve style.

Note: Use caution when cooking with a cataplana, as the handles and locking mechanisms can get hot.

RCI affiliated resorts in the Algarve include:
Clube Albufeira Resort Algarve 2414

A tranquil retreat surrounded by almond and olive trees. Estr. de Ferreiras, Albufeira
Member Review: “Exceptionally clean accommodations with a well-equipped kitchen.”

Clube Praia da Oura 2734

Take advantage of the beachfront setting and the variety of family-friendly activities. Apartado 827, Praia da Oura, Albufeira
Member Review: “The gardens are wonderful, and the whole complex is beautifully landscaped.”

Hotel Ap. Vila Gale Atlantico 2172

Relax with a dip and a steam while the kids enjoy the on-site playground. Apartado 108, Praia da Gale, Albufeira
Member Review: “I would recommend this hotel to anyone planning a vacation in the Algarve.”

Hotel Apartamento Forte do Vale D021

Dine on local and international dishes at the property’s restaurant, or venture off the grounds to explore the nearby nightlife. 80A Urb. Vale Mangude, Rua Dunfermline, Areias de São João, Albufeira
Member Review: “A very nice hotel with contemporary decor and a lovely big pool.” 

For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.

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Non-RCI affiliated resorts in the Algarve include:
Pousada de Faro, Palácio de Estoi
Rua São José, Estoi; 011-351-289-990-150; pousadas.pt; doubles from $150* a night 
Villa Termal das Caldas de Monchique
Caldas de Monchique, Monchique; 011-351-282-910-910; monchiquetermas.com; doubles from $90 a night
  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Winter 2015