Cataplana…and a mojito for kicks

Plated cataplana

I had the opportunity while in college to study abroad in Spain. It was an incredible trip for many reasons, but among them was the weekend we hopped on a bus and trekked to Lagos, Portugal. We stayed in a hotel right on the water, hiked along the coastline, and did some cliff climbing. It was there that I took some of my favorite photos of all time, looking out from the southwest tip of Europe towards home.

Lagos Portugal cliff photo

While I was there, I tried cataplana, which is both a classic Portugese dish and the copper, spherical pot it’s cooked in. It was incredible, and I’ve hoped to recreate it for a long time. Tonight was just the night for it. The sauce on the cataplana I had in Portugal was pretty thick. Many of the recipes I found called for heavy cream, and are likely amazing, but I was hoping to go light for this one. I ended up going with a recipe from the Porto Novo restaurant at the Sheraton hotel in Porto, Portugal. The recipe actually came in the form of a video, so some of the ingredients amounts are estimates. The video can be seen here: It’s a little lighter on both sauce and variety of seafood, but it just looked so good that I had to try it.


Peppers and onions

  • 1 lb. monkfish filet
  • 1/2 – 1 lb clams
  • 3 bell peppers of various colors
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Kosher salt

I snagged the monkfish, clams, and mint leaves at the local farmer’s market. These might be a little harder to find, but you can probably replace the monkfish with any mild white fish.


Soak the clams in some water 20 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat the oven as high as it’ll go. Mine went to 500.


IMG_2245Cut up all the ingredients. Chop the garlic, chop the parsley and mint, and thinly slice the onion and bell peppers. Combine all into a cataplana pan or otherwise oven-safe pan with a tight lid, making layers of garlic and onions, peppers & bay leaf, herbs, monkfish & clams, herbs, peppers, and onions/garlic. Add the salt/pepper to the fish before adding the latter layers. Add the olive oil and wine to the top. You may use more or less than I did…I really have no idea how much I ended up using.

Layers of food

Final look before oven

Place the pan in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. If it’s a catplana pan, you can likely get away with 15 minutes due to how tightly it’s sealed. If you have a meat thermometer, shoot for the fish getting to 140 degrees.



You’ve got nothing to do for a while and probably some left over mint leaves, so why not make a mojito while you wait?

I used this recipe:

This is scary good. It tastes like limeade. You get absolutely no alcohol flavor. Storing this one under “make again…but be careful.”


After cooking

The cataplana was very good, though the flavors didn’t intermingle quite as well as I would have liked them to. I may have used too much wine and/or oil, but I think it was likely because I forgot the salt and pepper until the end and added them on top so they didn’t get into the wine sauce. It also probably didn’t help that I didn’t cook it in the traditional hermetically-sealed cataplana dish so all that steam could seep around or that I only used half a pound of clams. However, all that said, it was still easily in the top 15 things I’ve cooked, and it was very pretty. The clams were by far the best part. I’d make it again, perhaps tweaking the wine and oil amounts, seasoning in the middle, and adding more clams.