My Grandmother's Alcatra de Carne

“Alcatra” is a traditional dish from Terceira, the island I live on. It is a pot roast that is cooked in large unglazed red clay pots. The pots are seasoned, and with each use get darker, and darker.  The simple spices, combined with onions, bacon and wine are what make this dish  flavorfull and so good. "Alcatra" is the Arabic word for "piece", and  it is  made with pieces of beef (round, shank, chuck). The additon of meat with bone in, makes all the difference, as the bones will give it more flavor. Every village, and everybodies grandmother has a different recipe for Alcatra, this one happens to be my grandmother's version. Shortly after I married, I took all of my ingredients, a notebook and pen over to my maternal grandmother's house. Where, while she put everything together, I wrote down her words of wisdom. Now I must say, she may or may not have forgotten something, but I follow this recipe as is, I don't mess arond with it, it's her recipe, just how she told it to me. You don´t mess with perfection. Now I am lucky enough to have a brick oven, where I can cook Alcatra, just as my grandmother's did, but this can also be cooked in a regular oven. They key is a long cooking time, it's what makes the meat fall off the fork tender. As for the unglazed claypot (alguidar), if you don't have one, no worries, use a roaster, or a dutch oven. Alcatra is not only restricted to meat, they can also be prepared with chicken, fish, rabbit, goat, beans and even octopus. Traditionally is was simply served with sweet bread (massa sovada), but there is no harm in serving it with some rice or potatoes. Don´t be put off by all of the photos, I just wanted to give you a step by step of how to put it together. It really is a simple dish make, but the end results are out of this world. I finally got it all translated, and on the blog. I have been asked so many times for the recipe... I am so proud to share it with you.  I hope you give it a try !





butter, garlic clove, whole allspice, sea salt, bay leaf

2 medium onions

cubes of bacon

beef, rump, round,shank chuck
use a good white wine, good wine makes good food, a red can also be used

unglazed clay cooking pot, seasoned, (alguidar)

finely chop the onions

grease the inside of the pot with some lard, or butter,  add 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 clove garlic, 8 whole allspice, and 1 bay leaf
next add half of the chopped onion, and half of the bacon

cut the meat into pieces, so that they fit in the clay pot
start at the bottom, with the bones, and work up, fitting in all the meat, like a puzzle

place the remaining onion and bacon, along the insides of the claypot and on topof the meat, add the remainding 14 whole allspice, on top add some knobs of butter

next add your wine mixed with water.... 2 parts white wine to 1 part water, fill the clay pot, using a knife to lift the meat, making sure there is liquid everywhere, fill up to the top of the dish

next cover with foil, poking some vents in it, place in a screaming hot oven, for atleast 7 hours, uncovering the last half an hour, during cooking time, more liquid may be added, if it seems to be drying up, new clay pots will absorb more liquid






1 presoaked unglazed 4-quart red-clay pot

lard or butter for greasing the clay pot
2 onions, finely diced
250 grams bacon, cubed
1 clove garlic,
 bay leaf
 2.5 kilos//5-pound rump or chuck roast, bone-in, cut into  pieces
22 whole allspice
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 tablespoons firm butter, cut into pieces
good white wine
water


 Preheat the oven 400ºf
Wash the meat you are using with some of the wine you will be using and some bay leaves.
Grease the claypot with some lard or butter.
To the bottom of the claypot, add 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 bay leaf, 8 whole allspice.
Next add half of the bacon and half of the diced onions.
Next add your meat, starting with the bones at the bottom of the pot, and working your way up, fit all the pieces in the claypot.
Next add the remainder of the bacon, the onions, and the 14 remaining allspice, fill in the side of the claypot, and covering the meat on top also.
Add some knobs of cold butter now.
 Next mix your wine with the water, 2 measures of wine mixed with one measure of water, you might have to do this more than once, extra liqid is alright to have, for adding to the Alcatra while it cooks.
Take the liquid and fill up the claypot, using a knife to lift the meat, making sure there is no air pockets, and it is filled with liquid, up to the top of the pot, covering the meat if possible.
Next cover with aluminum foil, poke some vents in it.
And place in the oven, it's not a bad idea to place it on top of a cookie sheet of pizza pan, in case the liqid boils over ( always does).
 I look to cook my Alcatra for atleast 7-8 hours, I cook it for3 hours at 400°F, then turned the oven down to 325°F and cook it the remainder of the the time.
During cooking, check to see if there is still liquid, if not add some of you wine and water mixture.
In the last half hour, uncover the claypot, and let the top brown. ( My grandmother would actually flip the meet over halfway through cooking-- this I do not do, the liqid is really hot, and it just scares me).



some notes:

**a roaster or dutch oven can be used also
** you can also make this in the crock pot
** the amount of meat will vary depending on the size of the pot you are cooking it in

** red wine can also be used, but will make the meat and gravy darker

**A new, unglazed clay pot needs to be seasoned to avoid passing an earthy flavor to food. To season, fill the pot with water and add several cabbage or collard leaves and some onion peelings. Then place the pot on a flame-proof diffuser over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours and then drain.

**When you want to cook in the pot,for the first couple of time... immerse it in water and soak for about 24 hours. Then proceed with the recipe by generously greasing the interior with butter.


** I hope I haven´t left anything out, please feel free to ask questions in the comments, and I will try to help you

Comments

  1. I am so excited to try this! One of our favorite meals on the island. Question, any idea how to make O Pescador's (?) Squid or shrimp cataplana or their house pudding?! I've been trying for years how to figure it out! Totally going to try this recipe. Gotta season my clay pot!

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  2. Mine has been in the oven for two hours and it smells heavenly.....

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  3. I was looking for a good winter meal for tonight. I was stationed on Terceira for two years and rented the top floor of a casa. There was a tailor on the first floor that would sell a gallon of his vinho de cheiro (smelly wine) for 10 escoutos It was a red concord grape wine that started out like a pinot noir when it was new got stronger as the year progressed and eventually became red wine vinegar when it was time for the next crop. The recipe I had from a women in Angra didn't have as much allspice, more garlic, loaded with onions pepper, salt and bay leaves. It was slow cooked in a covered alguidar over a slow fire in a locally fabricated grill on the back porch. The only think missing is the fresh bread from the cart that would pass by in the morning, with the driver calling out pao/paozinho. I hope your food memories are as vivid as mine. This was back in 1970.

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    1. Oh that does sound lovely, recipes for Alcatra, vary all over the island, some recipes even include cinnamon! I suppose every family makes it the way they were taught by their mothers, and grandmothers before them. Bread trucks still exist, selling bread door to door!.thanks for sharing your food memories with me ! Happy New Year Diana

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  4. Thank you for posting the recipe! My mom is from Terceira and use to make this and i loved it. I just recently got my moms old clay pot she used to make the Alcatra and it is very well seasoned. How do you clean the clay pot? It has been sitting for years unused and i was just going to give it a quick rinse with water to make Alcatra this weekend. And how would you clean it after cooking? Thanks again! -Sandra

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    1. You are very welcome! I just wash mine with some warm water and the smallest amount of dish soap, rinse and dry. Your mom's "alguidar" might have to soak overnight in water, so you don't run the risk of it bursting in the oven ! Happy New Year, Diana

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  5. Pretty much on point. Octopus is amazing too, it's tough to replicate or find any reasonable substitute for the bread though.

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    1. Yes Octupus alcatra is good too...the sweet bread ??

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    2. This may be a little late but Portuguesefoodonline.com in New Bedford, Mass. sells the pots for $24.95 plus shipping. They are made in the Azores.

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  6. I just got back from Terceira Azores and did not have time to purchase a clay cooking pot. Can you tell me where I can purchase one. I really need 4 for Christmas gifts (2017) of course.

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    1. Hello...goodness...I suppose if you live in Canada, or the Usa, I would try a Portuguese store, perhaps a butcher shop..or at a bakery...Let me ask around and get back to you..thanks Diana

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    2. In Canada you can find them in Montreal and Toronto in any portuguese store.

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    3. I just found this site and hoping it will work out well: https://miriamsearthencookware.com/

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    4. I am thrilled to try your recipe, my Grandfather was born and raised on Terceira as well, long ago...
      My husband andI were blessed to go over and spent 5 days there...that is when I first had Alcatra, sadly Gramps was already gone(he was born in 1903) He would have been so happy to know I went. Anyway...I am going to give your recipe a whirl!
      Thanks
      Brenda Borges

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    5. Brenda (Borges) Bagley 😉

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  7. Well I have it all put together and just stuck it in the oven! I cant wait!

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  8. While on Terceira in Angra last fall, my host made Alcatra for us and I knew I had to find a way to enjoy it back here in the U.S. I found your recipe online and it seemed very close to Maria’s. My late wife whose grandmother was from Terceira cooked in clay pots so I had that and then followed your wonderful recipe. The results were amazing. Almost like being back in Angra! Muito Obrigato!!

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  9. While on Terceira in Angra last fall, my host made Alcatra for us and I knew I had to find a way to enjoy it back here in the U.S. I found your recipe online and it seemed very close to Maria’s. My late wife whose grandmother was from Terceira cooked in clay pots so I had that and then followed your wonderful recipe. The results were amazing. Almost like being back in Angra! Muito Obrigato!!

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  10. So happy to see this recipe! We bought the pots in Tericera a few years ago but forgot how to make alcatra. So excited to use my pots again!

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  11. Hi I’m going to try your recipe. If I put cinnamon in it is it ground or stick? My mom was from Pico and used cinnamon in a lot of her recipes. Also if I haven’t used my alguidar for some years should I soak with water over night? Thank you

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  12. Now living here on the mainland Portugal and would love to buy some clay pots, I left mine in the US. I cannot find any here, have to wait to visit the islands again?

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  13. Adore Alcatra. What weight of meat including bone should I allow per person

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