Esporão & A Comida Portuguesa a Gostar Dela Própria

Chef Renato Cunha’s “pica-no-chão”

Chef Renato Cunha’s “pica-no-chão”

‘Arroz de Cabidela’ (rice and chicken cooked in blood), known as ‘pica-no-chão’ in the Minho region, is a classic of Portuguese gastronomy and a dish few people know how to cook well.

Renato Cunha went from apprentice to professional chef. Until then he’d learned a lot from his father Francisco Cunha who today still accompanies him on many occasions such as this one, when they welcomed us and prepared this traditional dish.

Owner of the Ferrugem restaurant in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Renato has become one of the biggest ambassadors of Minho dishes in Portugal and across the world, and one of Portugal’s most well-known chefs. The ties to his birthplace are as strong as his passion for gastronomy and ingredients, which is why he’s worked hard to bring back local produce and regional techniques.

Appreciation for traditional produce and organic farming is already part of his signature, drawing on the popular roots of Portuguese cuisine, jogging memories and re-inventing them with creativity and technical expertise.

In his working life, he has met a lot of people, one of them being Rui Marques, friend and breeder of traditional, Portuguese amarela (yellow) chickens. This chicken is a native species, known for its sturdiness, ability to adapt and “fantastic eggs”, according to Rui Marques. It’s also one of the most widely used meats in traditional Minho dishes, and is the preferred meat for chef Renato’s arroz de cabidela.

At Rui’s home in Vila Nova de Famalicão, we watch the whole traditional process, from killing and plucking the chicken, to letting the meat rest.

1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3
“People sometimes don’t know that for most animals, on the first day after slaughter rigor mortis sets in. That’s why the meat is much more fibrous, and we need it to relax a little.”Chef Renato Cunha
Some dishes take a long time, and this pica-no-chão is one of them, taking a day for the meat to rest, and two hours to make. For the first time, the chef tried cooking this chicken and rice in blood in a traditional fireplace pot. For us, it was also the first time experiencing the whole process of preparing the dish then trying it, cooked this way in so much love and wisdom.
1 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
4 / 5
5 / 5
To the sound of the falling rain, the chef added ingredients such as onion, garlic, olive oil, bay leaf, parsley, chilli pepper, chicken stock, and of course rice. Everything was added in generous quantities because there’s never too much flavour.
“Let’s overdo it. In Portuguese gastronomy, when it normally says use an onion, I like to put in two.” Chef Renato Cunha
1 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
4 / 5
5 / 5
It was a long wait but worth it. As soon as it was ready, we all sat around the table to try the best ‘arroz de cabidela’ we had ever eaten, the best in flavour and in memories.