Portuguese Alcatra in the Slow Cooker via farmgirlgourmet.com

Alcatra – Portuguese Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

Portuguese Alcatra in the Slow Cooker via farmgirlgourmet.com

After starting off the week with Filozes – Portuguese Donuts I made for #SundaySupper, I couldn’t help but start to crave some of my other Portuguese faves….like Alcatra.

Alcatra is a pot roast that’s traditionally cooked in large clay pots that resemble those that you might find in your garden.  I’m fresh out of a clay pot like that, so I pulled out my trusty slow cooker.  The roast cooks for many hours (8 in my case) and is so incredibly tender that it’s almost like butter.  The spices and wine are what make this dish full of flavor and goodness.  Oh and bacon.  Everything is better with Bacon.

In my lifetime, I have eaten this dish many a time.  Most often at the Portuguese Festa, or Holy Ghost Festival as some call it.  The story goes like this:

The original Holy Ghost Feast was held during the reign of Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal, who lived from 1271 to 1336. She was known as a peacemaker and as “The Holy Queen” who was devoted to the Holy Spirit. She built a church dedicated to the name of the Holy Spirit in Lisbon and often demonstrated her devotion to her people and their well-being. There are many stories of the Queen’s piety and service, but the dearest to the Portuguese people of the Azores is the one explaining their devotion to Queen Elizabeth and the Holy Ghost. In the 13th century, the Azores Islands suffered from many violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The most seriously hit was the Island of Pico. The people of these Azores Islands could not survive the drought, crop failures, and famine that now plagued them. They gathered together in prayer to the Holy Ghost for help. On the morning of Pentecost Sunday, there was a great rising sun, and the people of these islands saw in the sunrise a ship coming into the Port of Fayal. This ship was laden with necessities of life. The food was distributed among the people of the various islands, and they were very grateful that their prayers had been answered. When their Queen heard of this providence, she organized a solemn procession in honor of the Holy Ghost. Accompanied by her maids she carried her Crown through the streets of Lisbon to the cathedral, where she left it on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy Ghost had given her people. In addition, she began a tradition of feeding the poor at Pentecost. Each year she chose twelve people to whom she gave a new suit of clothing and personally served them a meal at her table. The people of the Azores vowed that they and their children and their children’s children would commemorate the day by giving thanks to their Queen for the sacrifice she made. Since then, many Portuguese churches have displayed replicas of her eight-sided crown in remembrance of her goodness and God’s grace. Later, in the 16th century, the church canonized this holy queen in recognition of the miracles that were attributed to her pious life.

Portuguese Alcatra in the Slow Cooker via farmgirlgourmet.com

My Grandmother is currently the oldest living Queen for her area of California and walks the parade each year.  Both my daughter and I have walked with her in parades past as young girls.  It’s a pretty great tradition….and at the end of the parade route are long tables loaded with Alcatra, Sopas (cabbage and french bread soup) and lots of Portuguese Sweet Bread.

Great Grandma & Great Grand Daughter walking in the Holy Ghost Parade - 2005
Great Grandma & Great Grand Daughter walking in the Holy Ghost Parade – 2005

Should we go bust out some Alcatra now?  I’m hungry just typing!

Alcatra – Portuguese Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

Yield: Makes 6 Servings

Alcatra – Portuguese Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

An easy recipe for Portuguese Pot Roast cooked in the slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 16 peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 pound chuck roast, or rump roast
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, fry bacon until just crisp over medium-high heat. Remove to a papertowel lined plate and allow to drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and add the onion, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, garlic and tomato paste. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the onion mixture to the slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl mix the salt and pepper and spread over the chuck roast evenly. Sear the roast on each side in the hot stock pot. When all sides have a been browned, place the roast on top of the onion mixture in the slow cooker.
  3. Turn the heat up to high and add the wine and water and scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom of the stock pot. Allow the wine mixture to boil for 5 minutes. Pour over the roast and top with the bacon. Add more water, if necessary, to just cover the roast. Cover and set the slow cooker for 8 hours (or follow your manufacturers suggestions for 8 hours). At the 4 hour mark, flip the roast over, cover and continue to cook.

Notes

Serving suggestions - Serve with bread (portuguese sweet bread) to soak up the juices. Would also be great served over warm polenta, rice or quinoa.

http://www.farmgirlgourmet.com/2012/03/alcatra-portuguese-pot-roast-in-slow.html

Avid organic gardener, wannabe Chopped champion, delicious picture taker, best mom ever and wife to Prince Charming. I also co-founded http://www.spiceologist.com and make pretty graphics and websites on the side.

10 thoughts on “Alcatra – Portuguese Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

  1. I was in the Azores from 1967-1972 – my father was in the Air Force. We lived in Praia and on the Lajes base – but my parents often had dinner dates in Angra and my mom made Al catra for the next 40 years. She used white wine, however, in her recipe. The al catra she’d enjoyed most was made with a dry white wine. SOOOO good, hearty and what a sweet rekindling of international childhood.

  2. I was in the Court with the queen in Pismo Beach, CA. do you have a receipt for Sopas I don’t have one and its been about 20 years since I have eaten this great dish. Also I remember my Grandmother making Thermouch (Don’t know how to spell it ) the bean you would bite the end and pop it into your mouth another thing I loved and have not had for 20 years also, have not had grandmother for years and all the receipts went with her, sad, sad.

  3. Tried this dish yesterday for a family dinner, and YUM! It’s better than any Alcatra I’ve ever had any of the Holy Ghost feasts in my area (which is Portuguese dominant)…the cinnamon and cloves make such a HUGE difference! My picky kids ate it without complaint and wanted seconds! I’ll never use another recipe! Thank You! :)

  4. I live in a city of 65-70% of Portuguese people, my city as many Portuguese restaurants and Bakery’s, which I shop once a week for sweetbread, Portuguese breads, boules, to make chourico sandwiches, or linguica, which is a milder version of the chourico. The traditional home made recipes, which are many can be bought fully cooked. We also have the traditional Holy Ghost Feast every August, which draws people from all over the country including Canada where there are many Portuguese immigrants living there. I have to admit it is my favorite food.

  5. I was also in the Azores, during the early 70s. The Angra Hotel made the best Alcatra I’ve ever tasted — cooked overnight. I’m making some today as the snow falls on Alabama!

  6. This recipe looks better than many, as it instructs you to precook the bacon and onion.
    I always do this, as I hate all that bacon fat. I always saute my onions before they go into any dish.
    I lived in the Azores as a military brat, in the 60’s, and have enjoyed my mother’s version of Alcatra since then. However, until I looked into making some for myself, I had not realized she never used the cloves, cinnamon, or allspice. Oh what I’ve been missing!

  7. I look foward to trying this, I wonder if it tastes like the real thing, my mom makes alcatra often, she also replaces the beef with turkey or chichen legs, its quick and easy for the working week.

Leave a Comment