Clams in a Cataplana

Flex your mussels and assault your senses with cataplana, a legendary seafood dish (and cooking vessel) from Portugal.



Cataplana, a Portugese seafood dish, inspired by Toni Pais' recipe.

Photos by Laura Petrilla

While I was preparing my notes for the "Restaurant Legends" in the June issue of Pittsburgh magazine, my mind wandered to the old Baum Vivant restaurant in Shadyside and one memorable meal prepared by chef/owner Toni Pais. He's a world-class chef whose pride in his Portuguese heritage is manifest in the authentic dishes he prepares.

On this occasion, Pais brought to the table what looked like a copper clam shell. He carefully opened the lid, releasing a cloud of fragrant steam redolent of the aromas of the garden and the sea. At the base of the dish was a tomato sauce made bold with onions, garlic, peppers and spicy Portuguese sausage. On top of the sauce were two or three dozen plump and succulent mussels adding their juices to the broth.

mussles
Mussels cataplana recipe.

The magic of this dish, called mussels cataplana, was the combination of distinct yet harmonious flavors. Pais is still making magic at his restaurant Café Zao in the Cultural District.

You can make the dish in any large covered skillet, but there is something dramatic about the presentation in the authentic utensil that heightens the sense of anticipation. You also can use almost any type of spicy sausage to flavor the sauce, but linguica (pronounced lin-GWEE-suh) is the authentic Portuguese cured pork sausage flavored with garlic, onion and paprika. You might as well go all the way.


Chris Fennimore is the director of programming at WQED and the producer/host for QED Cooks. Follow his blog on food and family at wqed.org/tv/cooks/chrischat/.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Rightsizing PIT - Will Landside Terminal, Tram Be Needed?

Rightsizing PIT - Will Landside Terminal, Tram Be Needed?

Big changes are expected as the Allegheny Airport Authority draws up a new master plan for the 25-year-old midfield terminal.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

Watch: Pittsburgh's Italian Chefs Cook Up an Amazing BBQ

The fire-cooked meal organized by Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino, included dishes prepared by chefs from Pittsburgh’s Italian restaurant community.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

The tacos-and-tequila bar and restaurant on the South Side doesn't do anything wrong, exactly, but has room to grow.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

As the team prepares the inaugural class of its Hall of Honor, Mike Prisuta selects the four members of the Steelers family most deserving of inclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

No. 14 Boutique in Lawrenceville put together this chic outfit for the tricky period when summer cools into autumn.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

Reviews of "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "Wind River," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Popping the Question Far Away from Home

Three grooms share how they carried their rings long distances to keep their brides-to-be in the dark until the moment they got on one knee.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Bombs Away: Arsenal 201 Apartments Open After Cannonball Removal

Months after the Civil War-era cannonballs were discovered at the former arsenal and munitions factory in Lawrenceville, residents are given the green light to move into the 243-unit apartment complex.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module