My Portugal Series - Harrison Weinfeld
Portugalia Marketplace: Growing up in New England, was there a certain meal or experience that inspired you to pursue a career in seafood?
Harrison Weinfeld: I have vivid memories of steamed littleneck clams prepared with garlic, butter, white wine, and fresh parsley. One of the things that stands out most to me is the dish's ease and simplicity; evidence that excellent, fresh, raw ingredients do all the heavy lifting for you. I think that's what I also love about conservas. You can usually count the ingredients on one hand, which is a testament to their quality.
PM: While studying Marine Fishery Management in college, you had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in Alaska’s Bristol Bay salmon harvest. What was this experience like?
HW: In short, life changing and eye-opening. I was on a 28-foot vessel with three other men and in the span of about eight weeks, we caught 160,000 lbs of sockeye, chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon. Not only did this provide a first-hand look into the love, labor, and care shown by the human beings behind the expedition, it also introduced me to quality canned seafood for the first time. Initially, I was so sad to learn that about half of our haul went straight to the cannery. Mostly, this was bias and ignorance on my part, partly due to my fierce allegiance to fresh seafood, and partly because I'd never been exposed to well-made tinned fish. Tasting it was transformative. And it launched the journey I'm still on today.
PM: How did the idea to create The Sardinfluencer come about?
HW: After years of sharing tinned fish boards with friends and cooking with conservas at home, I developed a dream to write a cookbook (a dream that remains as alive as ever today). After some years of sharing the concept and not knowing where to start, my partner recommended I start an Instagram account as a place to dream, play, and share recipes. I figured it would be fun and that maybe I'd meet some pike-minded folks to share info with on the internet. What I did not expect was to find a true canmunity. I had no idea when I started it that we would grow into a shoal of nearly 10,000 tinthusiasts like me!
PM: We’ve really enjoyed working with you to create the Sardinfluencer collections, featuring hand-selected tins from Portugalia Marketplace. Our current collaboration kit, Cooking with Conservas, has been a customer favorite this holiday season. What inspired the recipes included in this box?
HW: Portugalia has been such a supportive partner on these kits and has always offered me so much freedom to play and create. The recipes in the box are my own originals, and for this one I really wanted to showcase both a variety of species as well as the versatility of cuisines you can cook from Iberian conservas. So these recipes are meant to take us around the globe a bit. The Sardine Toast is New American, my Octopus "Canviche" is tinspired by Peruvian flavors, the Codfish Brandade is French/Portuguese (that one I developed at the request of Portugalia Marketplace VP Michael Benevides, and what's special is that I use tinned vs. salt cod), and finally, the Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Mussels is my conservas spin on a classic Japanese dish.
PM: Do you have a favorite conserva recipe that you find yourself returning to?
HW: I have so many that I truly love, and I encourage folks to find them on my website, but I'm biased toward the very first recipe I ever developed with conservas, which is my Spaghetti with Fennel & Sardines. It's simple, easy, so deep and rich in flavor, and I honestly never tire of it. It was featured in the first kit that Portugalia and I did together!
PM: When you encounter someone who is, as you describe it, a “sardine-skeptic,” how do you open their mind to the world of tinned fish?
HW: First and foremost, I respect what they are telling me! We all know what we like and don't and I never tell anyone they are wrong or just don't get it. Next I ask them what they do like and I steer them toward quality versions of those items. If they say they like tuna melts, I send them toward Tenorio Tuna in Olive Oil, if they like salmon, I recommend the Jose Gourmet Smoked Salmon in Olive Oil, and if they are open to trying sardines again, I invite them to try cooking with some, usually in the same Spaghetti recipe I recommended above.
PM: Are there any new projects in the works for 2024 that we can look forward to?
HW: I had such an amazing time in October getting to cook all four of the recipes in our kit during a visit to Portugalia Marketplace, and it really inspired me to do more live events. I am in the early stages of planning some things on both coasts (as well as in Europe). I invite folks to sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date on those (as well as other juicy news about tinned fish)!
O Melhor do Ribatejo Tomato Jam
I love using this as my jam on a tinned fish board. If you've never tasted tinned tuna, mackerel, or sardines on cracker with a smattering of this, I highly recommend it!
A must-have for any tinthusiast, a lateira can be used as a saucer for your tin, a vessel (upend a tin's contents into it for better view and easier forking), or my personal fave, as a baking dish for my tinned fish brandade (as featured in our latest kit!)
Metáfora Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Quite honestly one of the best olive oils I have ever used and very fairly priced for its quality, this goes beautifully with fishes or seafood that come in other sauces like tomato, escabeche or even brine.
A favorite way of mine to add brightness and crunch to your tinned fish date night board, these Portuguese gherkins also make a great garnish for a cocktail you're canjoying with tinned fish!