Easter Cooking: Wild Alaskan Halibut A La Cataplana Recipe c/o Chef Renato Donzelli of Basso Cafe       

Stephanie Webster

Cataplana is a Portuguese seafood dish originating in the southern region of Portugal in Algarve, and it is about as traditional a Portuguese dish as you can get. It uses a copper cooking device also called a Cataplana which unique to the Algarve region. If you don’t have this vessel you simply can use a pan with a lid.

This dish we are going to make is a variation using a fresh fish like Halibut, littleneck clams, and Spanish chorizo. Cataplana is perfect for making this dish because it efficiently contains the flavor and heat of the contents in the dish to provide a uniquely flavored and scented dish, simply without any fuss.

Recipe level easy |  35 min|  serves 4


  • 3 pounds of wild Alaskan filet of Halibut, cut in 4 portions 1 ½   thick (you can use other types of fish such as fresh Sea Bass or perch)
  • 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, linguiça, cut into 1/4-inch diagonally“coins”
  • One 1/4-inch thick sliceSerrano ham, or prosciutto, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Pounds whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 pounds small clams, such as cockles, or littlenecks, scrubbedand  rinsed
  • Freshly groundblack pepper
  •  3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves


1. heat a cast iron pan or could be a regular pan with olive oil, when oil is hot place the filet and let it searfor about 3-4 min medium to high heat to give that golden color on one side, remove the filets and set a side.                                                                  

2.Heat the oil in a large cataplana or a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Dump in the Spanish chorizo)  and Serrano ham, prosciutto) and cook, stirring occasionally, until touched with brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Lower the heat to medium; drop in the onions and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, the wine, and paprika. Discard any clams that feel heavy (which means they’re full of sand), have broken shells, or don’t close when tapped. Add the clams into the pot and turn the heat to high. If using a cataplana, lock it and cook 5 to 10 minutes….note: if you don’t have a Cataplana device you can do the cooking process in a regular pan and cover with the lid or another same size pan creating a sort of dome look when the lid is closed, shaking occasionally, until the clams open. If using a Dutch oven, cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the clams pop open, 5 to 10 minutes.

Basso Cafe Restaurant  124 New Canaan Ave. Norwalk, CT. 06850 Phone 203 3546566 / Fax 203 8104098