Portugal’s ultimate leftovers food has to be “Açorda” (pronounced ah-soar-duh). Growing up, if my mother had leftover “bacalhau,” the next day, there was “Acorda de Bacalhau.” If she had leftover shrimp, then it was “Açorda de Camarao.” If she had too much stale bread lying around, then it was plain old bread “Açorda.” What is Açorda? Think bread pudding, but savory not sweet, with a porridge-like consistency. It was originally a rural, peasant dish; the most famous comes from the southern region of Portugal, the Alentejo. The traditional “Açorda Alentejana” isn’t as thick as the one my mother makes. The Alentejo version has a great deal more broth and is traditionally finished with poached eggs and lots of fresh cilantro. It’s delicious! However, the thicker style is what I grew up on—a recipe that’s common and reinterpreted throughout Portugal.
Since Thanksgiving is the ultimate leftovers holiday in the U.S., I thought: why not share my “Thanskgiving Açorda.” My recipe is inspired by acorda in general, but doesn’t adhere entirely to either of the versions mentioned here. You can also alter the ingredients to suit whatever leftovers you do have on hand, but I would bet most people have plenty of turkey, stale bread, herbs and more left over to use for this recipe. It’s also a great opportunity to finish up some of those bottles of wine or beer from the night before. A chance to create a Thanksgiving brunch, if you will, paired with some of those lighter reds generally favored on Thanksgiving, the rich whites and full roses. Another good pairing would be a beer (I favor the bitter-ish type) or hard cider.
The trick to a good acorda, however, is the bread. Naturally, rustic “caseiro” Portuguese bread would be ideal. But since this bread is not commonplace at most supermarkets, look for other rustic European-style breads. Sliced bread or soft rolls just won’t due. So if that’s what you have, save this recipe for next year when you’re prepared with the right kind of bread, or plan for it any time of the year. Ready to put a Portuguese twist on those Thanksgiving leftovers … let’s go:
Thanksgiving Açorda (serves 2)
½ cup of pulled, shredded, leftover turkey
3 large garlic cloves
2 cups of rustic, European-style bread (the measurement is based on post-soaked bread)
½ cup white wine
2 teaspoons of red wine/balsamic/apple cider vinegar (either one works!)
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (Note: Traditionally, the herb of choice for acorda is coriander (cilantro), but since this is a Thanksgiving version, I stick to rosemary (thyme, oregano or parsley, if you prefer) which generally complements roasted turkey.)
White/black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Tear the bread in to cube-sized pieces and submerge it in a bowl of cold water for about a half hour before preparation. Pull, shred the turkey and set aside. Mince the shallots and sauté in olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) until lightly golden, turn off heat. Mince the garlic and add to the pot. Turn heat on medium-low, add vinegar and wine, stir and let evaporate. Mince the fresh rosemary and add to the pot, let it all come to a boil. Note: You can also throw it all into a food processor or turn it in to a paste using a mortar and pestle. That would likely be my choice if I were doing the brothy, Alentejo version, but for this one I like the sauté in layers. For extra Thanksgiving Flavor: If you have some of the leftover turkey drippings, you can add 2 or so tablespoons. Add about a ¼ of water and bring to a boil.
Remove the bread from the water and squeeze as much of the excess water out as possible. Tear in to pieces and add to the pot. Before turning the heat back on, start poaching your eggs. When the eggs are nearly finished, turn the bread heat on low and begin folding it into the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the eggs and set aside, but reserve the water. Ladle very small batches of the hot, eggy water into the bread paste as needed and stir each time. The result should be a little thicker than porridge or to your liking. Transfer the acorda to two bowls and top each with an egg. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika and some freshly-minced rosemary/pepper if desired.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!