Monday, April 25, 2011

Portuguese Migas

My new favourite side dish.  Apparently the word 'migas' (pronounced with a bit of an 'sh' sound at the end) means crumbs, and, the dish is comprised of mainly that...crumbs.  Crumbs of Broa, a bread made with cornmeal.  Crumbs and kale.  They grow lots of kale in Portugal... it's so plentiful... and ...totally different from the stuff we get here.  Some of the gypsy ladies at the markets there were trying to give it away.... along with lovely broccolini, for which I pay $4.99 a tiny tray.  Oh, man.... I want fresh stuff for cheap!!!  But...I did use a leaf or two of the kale I bought...which wasn't cheap.  I think next time I must make some soup too... another favourite of the Portuguese.  Caldo Verde, or green soup.  I only learned food words while there.  At least I wouldn't starve if I got dropped into Portugal at some later time.....

Onward with the "migas" .... Supposedly meant to use up leftover bread .... but,'s home made bread; how could there ever be much in the way of leftovers?  Of course, first I had to make cornbread... which took a bit of surfing around to find some decent sounding recipes to try.  Not easy to know where to begin after being in Portugal..and tasting the real and 'bestest' breads I've ever had in my life (other than some of the ones I've been making around here the past few years).

It seems there are at least 1001 (or thereabouts) ways to make migas.  And, it's not only popular in Portugal..but, many other countries as well.  Who knew?  Boy, have I lived a sheltered life.

It's one of those like Ratatouille from the look of things.  Began as a peasant dish...and now, all of a sudden has become popular in restaurants and homes all over...even some of the high class restaurants  ..and, in all sorts of variations.  Apparently, it used to be that you even knew which area of the country you were in just by tasting the migas recipe common to the region ... but, things have changed a lot since then.

As I mentioned, we just returned from holidaying in Portugal ...  where several restaurants served migas with our meal.  My friend Maria seemed surprised that I enjoyed it.... and I really did.  One restaurant in particular... just along the road and across from the Almourol castle, the last great restaurant at which we ate at before leaving for home, served the most delicious Migas (see, I even capitalized theirs!) with my equally amazing skewer of buttery soft Veal.  (every single restaurant we chose was amazing!! and I'm pretty darn picky. )  Actually Joe and Maria chose them...and they did a great job!

I absolutely have to make some migas now.  Not so often that it becomes old hat or anything...but definitely often enough that I can enjoy a flash back to our wonderful holiday every so often.  It'll be instead of spuds or some other starch for us..... or a simple side dish..or ... well, I'd be happy with it for my little meal.  You can add sausage as some recipes call for... chorizo if in Portugal.   I could use some spicy Italian from a local shop called Spolombo.

So..... .. first ...make some Broa .. or cornbread.  Maybe you can find some in a shop near far no luck with that here. It's a yeasted version with cornmeal... typical to Portugal...
This second attempt of mine was not as dark, nor as sweet as the best one we found in Portugal at one of the markets.  Theirs was, and probably always will be, the best.. mmmmmyum....... but, I shall soldier on in hopes of making one that comes a close second.

here is mine... looks great.  Wonderful crumb...but... nyeh....just not as tasty as I wanted it to be.

Always on the lookout for less salty stuff, me....and I found some half salt bacon.  woohooo... it's still pretty salty for us because we prefer to eat less salt.  But... much better than the regular stuff.  This brand claimed to be smoked in a traditional way, but, it seemed to have a bit of a sweet sort of Maple smoked-ness to it.  Pretty tasty.

I used the browned bacon to set us up with some tasty little appetizers in the Portuguese manner, which seemed to appear at the table as if by magic within some 30 seconds or so of us being seated.  Wonderful to snack on while making our choices from the menu.  It sometimes took a while...what with translating and such.  Even the appetizers can transport me right back to any of the wonderful restaurants we tried.  Some olives, some cheeses... salads with olive oil and newly dried Portuguese oregano....Ahhhh...I guess I could just holiday the rest of my life if I had the money.... come on lucky Lotto!!!

Here is my version.  Yes, I looks like scrambled eggs..but it isn't.  Check out several sites if you decide to make it.  There are so many to choose from and all would probably be pretty tasty.

Sorry, I don't have any particular measurements.... just crumble up some day old cornbread... fry a couple strips of bacon..... take out bacon and add the crumbs to the pan. Stir around till all bacon fat is absorbed ... add a bit of pepper and a few spices if you like.... stir and cook slowly on low heat for a bit.  Add some finely chopped kale.  I used a julienne method of rolling the leaves and slicing and then.. finely chopping it some more.  I didn't want it long and stringy.  Stir in the kale and let simmer slowly for a bit longer.  Several of the recipes called for soaking the bread in milk or water and most of the ones I had in Portugal were soft (some even had mashed potatoes in them).... so I decided to add a bit of whole milk to give it some softness and a bit more body..not to mention more calcium.  We can always use more of that.  I then let things simmer with a lid on for a bit longer... tasted, ... added a bit more milk and.... .... wayhey!...pretty darn good.

Hope you look at some of the migas recipes online and give this a try.