A Cook's Tour (2002–…): Season 1, Episode 7 - Cod Crazy - full transcript

Portugal - Portuguese cuisine holds a dear place in Tonys culinary heart.Tony travels to Porto, home of the famous Port wine, where he is immediately exposed to the codfish and the almost mythical place it holds in Portuguese cuisine and culture.

Welcome to my world.

Two escargot, pate, frisee.

Two green salads.

OK, pan is hot here.

Lambchops, steak frites.

Shouldn't you be
doing something?

Two smoked filet
and a pepper steak.

Come on, make the dessert.

Chocolate tart, please.

cook, tastes and smells

are my memories, and I
went in search of new ones.

So I'm leaving New
York City and hope

to have a few epiphanies
around the world,

and I'm willing to go to
some lengths to do that.

I am looking for extremes
of emotion and experience.

I'll try anything.

I'll risk everything.

I have nothing to lose.

Our experience in
Portugal was very much

a step back in time, open
fires, hearths, fireplaces.

And of course, the
food is very much

like it was 100, 200 years
ago, and they're proud of it.

It's mind boggling.

You feel like you're
in another century.


Here I am, finally,
in Portugal.

What's different about
Portugal than every place else?

Basically, in Portugal,
we eat a lot of fish,

and we eat a lot of pork.

And one of the great
things is that any animal,

we eat just about everything.

We don't let
anything go to waste.

Nose to tail.

Nose to tail, all the
innards, everything.

You're scaring me.

I'm going to Portugal

to figure Jose, my boss from
Les Halles, the restaurant where

I work.

Jose is a maniacal foodie--
loves food, loves cooking,

loves talking about
food, loves buying food.

And his love for his
country's cuisine

has only gotten stronger since
he left Portugal years ago.

Jose's quirky obsession
with Portuguese food

is something that's
always intrigued me.

Knowing Jose, I suspect I'm
going to be eating a lot here.


Prepare the stomach for lunch.

The town of Oporto.

It's an old town.

It's a pretty town.

How old is this city?

Uh, maybe from the 12th
century as we know it,

as being part of Portugal.

So it's a very, very old city.

We quickly discover

possibly the most important
traditional staple

of Portuguese cuisine,
which is salt cod,

or bacalhau as
they call it here.

OK, this is the backbone

of Portuguese cuisine, isn't it?

is what it's all about.

Why is that?

I guess there used to be a lot
of bacalhau in North Atlantic.

And the Portuguese boat
at the time-- nobody

cares about the
Portuguese fishermen--

would go to the North
Atlantic up to the Greenland

to fish for bacalhau.


And they figured out

a way to preserve
it, both on the boat

and then when it gets in land.


JOSE (OFFSCREEN): Because at
the time, there's no freezers.

No refrigeration.

Back in the days

when Portugal ruled the world,
way before Swanson Hungry Man

frozen dinners, they
needed a sustainable food

for all those long,
conquering boat trips.

And they discovered that
if they splayed out a cod

and stuck it in salt, it
would last a couple of years.

That's a long time at sea.

But what started out
as survival food soon

made its way onto
their tables back home.

It hasn't left since.

People started falling
in love with bacalhau,

and it becomes--
basically it stays

the national dish,
that would be bacalhau.

Now I understand why you don't
like that stuff that comes with

no bones in it in a--


little plastic bag.

like any food-crazy country,

restaurants are known
for specific dishes

or specific things
that they do well.

And apparently, Portugal
has a lot of these joints.

Surely they'll have
some things for us

to eat while we're waiting for
the fish head to get cooked,

and we'll see what [INAUDIBLE].

And I'm ready.

First place Jose

takes us is a workaday
lunch joint called Redondo.

Redondo is famous for merluza,
particularly head of merluza.

don't go there only for that,

the friend of Don only, if
you don't come here often,

you cannot have that.

They have this reserved for
the really special customers.

Fortunately, we're a
very special people.


should be pointed out,

you don't make
reservations for the night.

You basically make
them for life.

This is your cousin's table?


This is my cousin's
table right here.

He owns table.


Now, I know there's

some elements of
Portuguese cuisine

that I already
really, really like.

And in fact, I've stolen
a lot of those recipes

and used them as my
own over the years.

So I'm here because I

like the idea of just
using every part,

to really understand how
every part is valued.

You know, you respect
the ingredients.

It's sort of the antithesis
of what we do in the States.

When you think
sardine in the States,

this is not the
same animal at all.

It's not salty, oily,
stinky like we're used to.

These are really
good, really fresh,

and in this case, dredged
in flour and eaten whole.

You start by that.

everything I like in food.

Absolutely nothing is wasted.

You got the whole
thing, the whole fish.

It's simple.

It's straightforward.

It's about, you know, like two,
three ingredients involved.

And it's good because it's good.

You don't have to carve
it into a silly shape,

and you can eat the head.

I think these days

that I see more and
more people want

the simple ingredients,
very good, very fresh.

Here it is.

Here is the--

Wow, here we go.

Next, merluza.

Merluza's like a giant whiting,
very simple, very rustic.

The Portuguese understand
that the closer

to the bone, the
sweeter the meat.

They cut it further
down the neck,

so we have a little meat to eat.

I got all the good stuff
here, the cheek, the tongue,

little boiled potato,
carrot, onion.

You want eyeball too?



Would you love some--

Yeah, I'd love some.

It's really light, really
subtle flavor, ethereal,

one might say.

Basically, if you like filet
of fish, you will like eyeball.

It's just you got to get
past your preconceptions

about chewing on eyeballs.

Now, for the tongue.

The tripe a la
mode I love making.

I think I make it
pretty well, but it

smells like the
wet sheepdog to me.

Jose just loves tripe.

He not only loves
tripe, he likes

tripe cooked in
beans, preferably

with some hooves, and some
knuckles, and some blood

sausage, and some skin, and
some ears, and some tails.

That's something I
probably would not

have ordered had I come
to this restaurant alone.

the best type of tripes.

It's called the

See the beans?

And there's a little what
we call [PORTUGUESE].

That's the cow's sweetbread.

It's the best.



This dish is-- the reason
it's called Oporto-style

is, sometime in history,
Napoleon sent his troops,

and he did invade Portugal.

And he ransacked everything
so people would surrender.

But they left them with
the innards of the animals.

That was the tripe, the
stomach of the cows,

and maybe some other things.

And the people
from Oporto came up

with a dish that was
the tripes to survive.

And of course, then it become
a traditional big dish.

OK, where's that
little veal feet feast?

Oh, here it is.

See, I would be a
full-blown tripe fan

if I'd been eating it
like this all the time.

That was fantastic.

Thank you very much.

It was wonderful, an
eye-opening experience.

should be pointed out,

I've been off the plane,
what, two hours now?

I've had no sleep.

I'm jet-lagged.

This man is enthusiastic
to a fever pitch.

Some drawstring pants might
have been a good investment

for this trip because
I get the idea I'm

going to be eating
a lot, and I'm

going to be eating frequently.

The city of Oporto.

It's a port city.

It's in northern Portugal at
the mouth of the Douro River.

It's a city that grew up around
the making of, exporting of,

port wine.

The grapes may come
from the Douro Valley,

but this is Port Town.

are on the [PORTUGUESE].

It's probably the most
typical part of Oporto.

You see all the port wine signs,
most of the familiar brands,

Calem, Sandeman, Delaforce.


I recognize some of these names.

So this is where it all happens
in terms of the port wine.

This is the center of the
whole business of port.

The wine came from upriver?


From up the river.

On these boats?

And then on these boats.

Then here, they were
fortified with brandy,

and then it sailed
down to England.

one of their many scuffles

with the French,
the shifty British

turned to Portugal
for their wine,

but found they
could only keep it

from going bad during
shipment by adding brandy.

And bingo, they
invented port wine.

The result was that you
look around the river,

and you see a number of
decidedly un-Portuguese names.

See, if you'd poured a few--
a couple of hundred years ago,

if you had poured a few hundred
thousand gallons of port

into the river, formed
a little port party,

and then started killing
a few thousand Englishmen,

then we wouldn't have
had this problem.

-Ah, maybe. [LAUGHS]
Well, let's go in there.

It's really, really very nice.

So I know they used to have
taverns and stores, and some

of them, they still
have some taverns here.

The Portuguese

are sort of defiantly
happy about not

having changed much at all.

And they seem to have
decided early on what's good

and stuck with it.

Here you have a very
old-style grocery store.

Let's-- let's
maybe on this side.

Maybe it'll be open.

Yeah, is open.

So this is what a
grocery store used

to look like a
hundred years ago.

So there's nothing
changing here.

This is, you know, the
olives, the [PORTUGUESE], the

[PORTUGUESE], you know,
all these ingredients.

And it's the same
style, you know,

that people used to go
and buy their supplies.

to eat some octopus next.

Jose's been telling me all
about this place for some time.

People come from all over
Portugal to eat octopus here.

What's the the name
of this place, man?

It's called Aleixo.

And as you know, it's very
well-known for its octopus rice

and octopus filets.

Joining us for octopus

is Jerry Luper, a
winemaker from California,

who settled in Portugal about
seven years ago to grow grapes

and to make new wine.

Let's sit down.

I'm ready for my favorite wine.

Ah, that's good.

That's the best they have.

This is another form
of octopus, you know?

It's octopus salad.

The octopus is
boiled, and then mixed

with a little vinaigrette.

Little bacalhau eyeballs,

like meatballs, only cod.

I knew I'd be eating
a lot of bacalhau

because I just know Jose's
obsessed with this stuff.

He gets very upset
if what he sees

as substandard bacalhau
comes into the restaurant.

He'd come in, look at it,
and say, send it back.

I hate it.

I can't live with it.

Would it be fair
to say that this

is one of Oporto's most
beloved restaurants?

Yes, yes.

By locals?

And by foreigners and by--

a destination.


If you really want
to bring someone

to savor the local
flavor, really

enjoy what is good and
typical about Oporto,

that's the place to be.

Like this is it.


Jerry, you're going
to tell us what

we're drinking here with this.

Porto Reserva Branco
white wine partially

fermented in a barrel,
and then blended

with wine fermented in
stainless steel for freshness

and butteriness of
the wood, and very

agreeable with
this kind of food.

know [BLEEP] about wine.

I should not be counted on
to recommend a good vintage.

Fortunately, Jerry Luper
knows everything about wine.

That'll come in handy tomorrow.

Look how she cuts the
potatoes without even looking.


These guys are great.

This is a special.

Like 90% of the people, they
come here for this only.

OK, Tony.

Tell me what we got here.

This is the octopus rice.

They make it with the smaller
piece of the tentacles.

Right in with the rice?


And here, you have
octopus filets.

It is very difficult
to find somewhere else.

All right.

First of all, they use fresh
octopus that is fished locally.

And second, that's what
this restaurant is famous

for, and they've been doing
this for 40, 50 years at least.

So it's very, very hard to do
something as well as they do.

This is an operation
that figured out

what it is they wanted to do.


Figured out what
they do well, and have

been doing it
relentlessly for years.


So you want a piece
of prosciutto?

Of course.

Didn't I just see one hanging
up on a wall somewhere?

Yeah, that's it.

Yes, looking good.

Tell us about this cheese?

Sheep's milk cheese,
south of Lisbon.


OK, so this is
just how I like it,

meaning if this rind
breaks, this stuff

is seeking its own level.

I'm frequently asked why vegans
are the enemy of everything

that is good and decent and must
be hunted down and destroyed

so their genes don't pass
on to future generations.

It's because if you
can't enjoy even

a nice, stinky, runny,
ripe cheese like this,

you may as well
kill yourself now.

Now, I have to ask you, does
every Portuguese meal end

with port?

There is no wine on the table.

It's a disaster
because there's no meal.

There is no meal.

I like Portugal.

I like the food.

And I'm very aware of the fact
that this is not light cooking.

And of course, at
the end of the day,

I'm stuffed like an
over-jammed kielbasa.

- Salut.
- Salut.

out of of my league here.

The next morning, I wake up
on an idyllic mountaintop

of the Douro Valley wine
country in a spectacular hilltop

guesthouse courtesy of
my friend, Jerry Luper.

I'm really looking
forward to soaking up

the amazing view of
the vineyards below,

but the weather has
different plans.

As you could see,

the weather's not so great.

It was actually
wonderful, but the staff

has informed us, with
very worried looks,

that-- to the Americans,
you should leave very, very

soon as the road no good.

We'll hit the road
before it washes out,

or we'll be living up here for
the next six months, I'm told.

That doesn't look good.

What the hell is this?

This isn't like my
travel agent told me.

This is like "Escape
from Witch Mountain"

and the R-rated version.

At some point, I'm going go to
meet that evil Jerry guy who

sent us up to this mountaintop
in the first place.

Yeah, his wine better be good.

Jerry, thanks for getting us
off the mountaintop there.

A little touch and
go for a while.

Any chilling anecdotes
of hapless tourists

marooned up here?

Well, as a matter of
fact, a couple weeks

ago that elevated highway,
a huge chunk of the hill

fell down and submerged two
cars that were passing by.

So we do need to
get down the hill.

Just a little
background on the Douro,

there are 40,000 hectares.

That's 96,000 acres
of grapes, and there

are 33,000 owners of
vineyard in that area.

Down here you have the Douro
River upstream on the way

to Spain, and the
vineyards continue

for another 20, 30
miles up the river.

been wine country going back

hundreds and hundreds of years?

Oh, yeah.

There's evidence that the
Romans were here for gold.

Named the river
Douro, "of gold."

The Romans mined gold here,
and then when the gold ran out,

they stayed and made wine.

So that was one of the Roman
ways of keeping things settled

down, you know, keep
the local people happy.

Keep them liquored up.

Works in my kitchen.

I didn't know wine
country was so steep.

I'll tell you.

I pictured, you know,
gently rolling hills.

Yeah, here it's very
steep, but routinely you'll

find slopes of 45 degrees.

45 degrees, if you look
at the angle like that,

that's pretty darn steep.


This vineyard is called Cartola,
and the vines are about 70,

80 years old.

And they produce the wine we're
going to drink with dessert--


after lunch.

As we can see,
the water erosion

has caused a break
in the wall here.

We got rock blocking
the drainage.

It's a constant battle to
keep this in conditions,

and it takes a lot of
work, lot of labor.

From about where we're
standing to the treeline

over there, how
many cases of wine

are we-- best-case scenario?


We're talking about maybe, say,
35 cases per acre times five,

you know, 165 cases of
wine from two hectares.

That's not very much.

Still, think about
that next time you

tuck into a really good wine.

Well, I think we came to
the end of the road here.

Jerry's yammering

on about vines
and soil and rain.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping that
the road doesn't wash out,

and that I don't go tumbling
to my death in a tangle of Land

Rover parts and grapevines.

It's a thin strip of
road we're on here.

Safe at the bottom
of the mountain,

we arrive at the quinta, the
main farmhouse on the vineyard.


Wine is on, dry, white port.

Let's see what you
think of this one.

And a lot of people
use it to make

a cocktail in the summertime,
with some tonic, ice,

and peel of orange.

You know there's a
classic rock and roll

song about white
port and lemon juice.

I said, W-P-boom--


boom L-J. That's
from my time.


The kitchen is ready.

It's nice to have
these olives and wine,

but it's time to get
into the real thing.

got something special in mind

for lunch, bacalhau.

There seem to be many,
many ways to make it.

It's a constant theme.

called bacalhau [PORTUGUESE].

So it's almost like a
branade, a casserole,

but heartier consistency
and a nice, crunchy top.

In other words,
they say in France,

there's a cheese for every day.

In Portugal, there's a
bacalhau recipe for every day.


We're noticing
it's cod, cod, cod.

And the wine we're serving

is a 1997 Chardonnay,
and hopefully it

goes OK with the bacalhau.

a roast loin of pork

stuffed with prunes roasted,
unsurprisingly, in port wine.

The French call this
Boulangere potatoes,

meaning you cook the
potatoes with the roast,

so you get all that
fatty, greasy goodness.

It's beautiful.

(OFFSCREEN): And here's

the secret, the
[INAUDIBLE] juices.


I'm going to have
that plate back.


today, you peel the potatoes.



You know, there's this
thing, peeled or not peeled.

I know, and it's the
eternal struggle, isn't it?


cook never wins anyway.

starch, potato, rice.

It's a thing at like Culinary
Institute of America, you know,

where certain precepts
are drilled into you

that you must do this this way.

And I guess, I found out
that at least 75% to 90%

of those precepts
are absolutely wrong.


This is a Tinta Roriz,
and it has a good amount

of tannin, which really
goes great with a meat dish.

Now, something very special,
40-year-old tawny port.

40 years old.

This wine started its life with
this color, and then with time,

it changes to a
lovely almond orange.


Well, there must be blood and
bone involved because you're

looking to move beyond the
grape into the spiritual sense.

You know, I'm getting
life force here.

I'm getting drunk.

And remember those
vines I showed you?

We passed this
neighborhood as I recall.


grapes went into this wine.

myself a professional drinker,

but if this keeps
up, I'm not going

to make it out of Portugal.

You know, like much of
my time in Portugal,

I have no idea where
the hell I'm going.

Jose says, we're going someplace
very good to eat baby goat.

We arrive at Quinta da Lama.

It means mud farm.

I don't know why.

So Jose, we took some
sinister-looking dark back

roads to get here.

I could never find my way out.

Where are we exactly?

Old olive oil press.

As you can see, it
is all made in stone.

They used to put
here the olives,

and this wheel will come
around and smash the olives.

So this is not working
anymore, and they

decide, for some reason, to
a countryside restaurant.

Famous here for kid goat,

roasted the traditional
Portuguese way.

So you come here
in the kitchen,

and this is still
the original kitchen.

As you can see, the old
[INAUDIBLE] and fire.

Actually, our goat is in here.


It's convenient.

So you see this sill here?


They used to sell
these with cow manure.

That's kind of illegal.

I'll live with this.

This is the way people
smoked the sausage,

they hang up over here over
some kind of open fire,

and there you're getting smoke.

This is seriously old school.

has a very extended family.

Every 10 minutes, somebody
else enters the room,

and it's, this is my cousin.

This is my brother.

This is my cousin.

this is one of my cousins

is a very important person
to meet because he actually

is the CEO of a company
that fish for bacalhau.

Ah, we know how
important that is.

So maybe some of the bacalhau
that you're eating so far

might have been
fished by his boats.


four hours of slow cooking,

my little baby goat is
ready to hit the table.



You know, the
rice is underneath,

so the drippings would
come over the rice.

That's what makes very tasteful.

The grease in there?


All that nice flavor.

now we can start eating.

Let's eat.

many places in Portugal,

it's the old way.

We're talking real flame,
real smoke, real flavors.

JOSE (OFFSCREEN): Everything
in Portuguese meal,

you have to start with codfish.

I'm gathering that.

festive casserole of bacalhau.

There doesn't seem
to be much dilution--


the original concept.

Before there was restaurant
food, there was home cooking.

It's all about
friends and family.

give me a little grease there.

good luck with stuff

with a long tradition
attached to it.

Ah, incredible.

understand Portuguese cuisine,

but I understand why Jose
is Jose a little more

now, the context for Jose's
particular form of enthusiasm

and madness.

Generally, when he's
passionate about a food item,

it's because it comes
from his childhood,

and that's true of all of us.

I think any dish that evokes
memory, that you grew up with,

has a powerful hold on you.

And Jose is Jose because
he's never forgotten them.