Country Style Portuguese Pork with Onion and Pancetta Gravy

From the Archipelago of the Azores to the San Francisco Bay Area comes this traditional pork dish the recipe of which has been passed down for generations in Dayton’s family.  Carne de Porco em Vinho d’Alhos, or, literally, pork in wine of garlic, is a dish that Dayton’s mom, who was of Portuguese descent, learned from her mother… who in turn had learned it from hers.  Dayton’s maternal great grandmother had been born and raised on the island of Sao Jorge in the Azores and undoubtedly learned to prepare this peasant-style dish, common to the Azores, as a means of preserving pork before the days of refrigeration.  It is a wonderfully unique dish with a palate pleasing tanginess that was originally prepared with pork shoulder, the version that Dayton remembers so well from the days of his youth.  From the pages of his handwritten and well-worn cookbook filled with old family recipes comes this dish in which we chose to use pork tenderloins rather than a whole shoulder which, by the way, is equally delicious and provides ample left-overs for other preparations.

If a pork shoulder is used the time the meat needs to spend in the marinade/pickling liquid is doubled simply because of the size and density of the cut of pork.  For a four to five pound shoulder we allow the meat to sit in a large crock or non-reactive pan completely covered with liquid for two to three days at room temperature, the crock or bowl covered with film.  Because of the acidity of the liquid there is no need to fear spoilage.

When the shoulder is ready to roast remove it from the liquid and drain well:

Tie the shoulder as necessary, season with All-Purpose Meat Rub and roast in a preheated 375 degree oven until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending upon the size of the roast.  Tent with foil for 15 – 20 minutes.  The internal temperature of the meat will rise an additional 10 degrees during the resting period.  The pan drippings are an excellent base for a rich sauce or gravy.

The technique is a bit different when using pork tenderloins, although the ingredients for the marinade/pickling liquid are the same.  Since the tenderloins are much smaller than a shoulder the time they spend in the liquid is much shorter, cooking time is abbreviated using a different technique and, since the tenderloins are quite lean, we chose to render the fat from several pieces of pancetta to provide the necessary fat for the preparation of the rich onion and pancetta gravy to nap the meat for service.

Country Style Portuguese Pork with Onion and Pancetta Gravy

Into a medium crockery or non-reactive bowl place:

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 fresh bay leaves, cut into slivers with a pair of scissors
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 T whole cumin seed, bruised in a mortar and pestle
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 C red wine vinegar
  • 1 C water

Place the tenderloins into the marinade/pickling liquid and turn once or twice, confirming that they are completely submergedTurn the tenderloins once or twice and confirm that they are completely submerg.  Add additional red wine vinegar and water in proportion if necessary.  Cover the bowl with film and allow to sit for 24 hours at room temperature:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the tenderloins from the liquid, pat them dry with a paper towel and season with:

  • All-Purpose Meat Rub


  • 2  1/4-inch thick slices of pancetta (4-oz)

Unroll the slices and cut into thin pieces.  Place a heavy 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat and add the pancetta:

Render the fat until the pancetta becomes rich brown cracklings.  Transfer the cracklings with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain.  To the pan add:

  • the seasoned tenderloins

Brown well on all sides:

When browned add:

  • 2 – 3 splashes brandy

Place in the oven and roast until the internal temperature of the tenderloins is 140 degrees, approximately 12 – 15 minutes.  Remove tenderloins from the pan and tent on a cutting board.  The internal temperature will rise an additional 10 degrees during the resting period while the sauce is being prepared.

Drain the fat from the pan and reserve, allowing the browned bits to remain in the pan.  To the pan add:

  •  3 T of the reserved fat


  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped

Saute until the onions have begun to brown, scraping loose the bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add:

  • 2 T flour

Stir and cook until the flour takes on a mocha color.  Add:

  • any remaining reserved fat and juices

Stir and cook for an additional minute or two.  Add:

  • 2 C beef stock
  • 1 T tomato paste

Whisk until thoroughly incorporated, reduced and slightly thickened.  Add:

  • the reserved pancetta cracklings

Season to taste with:

  • salt and pepper

Add any accumulated juices from the cutting board to the sauce.  Slice the tenderloins crosswise, plate and nap generously with the pan gravy.  We accompanied this dish with golden oven roasted Portuguese-style potatoes and a cool and creamy coleslaw… delicious!  Bon Appetit!

Copyright 2010 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved



Categories: Pork

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!


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