Try using a script to perform a find for the records instead of using a portal. You can set up a global field for entering all or part of the name and then a script can use the data in the global field to set up and perform the find for you. This same script can then display the results of the search on a layout like you describe.
See this thread for scripted find examples: Scripted Find Examples
Stick with your portal, but put a button in the portal row that you can click to select that record for editing. The button can use Go to Related Records to pull up that record on a different layout designed for editing.
Thanks so much for the prompt reply and for the info. I will try these out later.