Portuguese diners feeling a longing for a home-cooked meal know where to get their fix when it comes to traditional fare. Whether you’re meandering the streets of Lisbon or trekking the Douro, the Portuguese tasca is a homestyle eatery where provincial provisions get piled on aluminum plates that invite nostalgia from first whiff. The lucky will find a friendly server ready to write the day’s menu on the paper tablecloth, and the luckier will find moelas on that list.
Eaten as a starter, main course, or after a night out, these succulent, seasoned chicken gizzards remind many Portuguese folks of the rustic cooking they associate with home. Served in abundantly flavorful, usually spicy broths of sautéed garlic, onions, red wine, and tomatoes, a dish of stewed moelas is as simple as it is sentimental. To spice up the broth, some cooks add chouriço, a paprika-spiced Portuguese sausage, and molho de piri piri, a hot African pepper sauce that was integrated into Portuguese cuisine during the colonial era.
The gizzards can be speared with toothpicks and served in a shallow pool of broth as an appetizer, or garnished with parsley and served in a deeper bowl as a hearty stew. Regardless, a side of rice or slices of toasted papo seco (Portuguese bread rolls) are essential tools for soaking up the rich broth. Pairing your moelas with local wine or beer is highly recommended. And, if it’s a Monday, why not have a side of bacalhau while you’re at it?
Need to Know
If trying your hand at being a gourmet gizzard wizard, be sure to clean the organ thoroughly before cooking. The organ comes from the bird’s digestive tract and, remarkably, uses bits of grit or sand that the chicken has eaten to help grind up food. Not so remarkably, this can cause the gizzard to feel a bit sandy.
Where to Try It