Francesinha – Little Frenchie Portuguese Sandwich
Dear friends today I want to share with you the history and recipe of one of Portugal's famous sandwich. The "Francesinha, the most complete sandwich just for the brave😋" The Francesinha is essentially just slabs of bread stuffed with meat and cheese, but Portuguese chefs are reluctant to share their technique. Locals will have their favorite restaurant with the best Francesinha in town, typically arguing about the quality of the sauce (a secret recipe that varies by restaurant) and the quality of the meats.To be fair, this is not your everyday sandwich. Most of my Portuguese friends have a “1 a month” rule to ensure their cholesterol stays slightly below the “red zone”; which is why you should be super choosy when tucking to your own Francesinha.
Few dishes in Portugal inspire such heated debate as the Francesinha, essentially a toastie pimped to epic proportions and smothered in a rich, meaty sauce. The name, which roughly translates as "Little Frenchie," might suggest a dainty and delicate dish, but this sandwich is as hearty and hardcore as it gets. The Francesinha's origins are somewhat hazy, but it's said to be a distant relative of the "croque monsieur" that Portuguese migrants to France fell in love with during the 1950s and 60s, and adapted to their own meaty tastes on returning to Porto.
The story goes that the Francesinha was invented in Porto in 1953 by Daniel David de Oliveira, a young man from Terras do Bouro who had been an emigrant in France. Daniel said that his dish was inspired by the French women whom he considered " very spicy " . For many years in the bars of Porto only men, especially unmarried ate francesinhas, due to the spicy sauce, as conventional wisdom considered that the spice caused behavioral changes. so women could not eat - them, or risk being labeled with a bad reputation. With the passing of time, Francesinha ended up becoming one of the most appreciated delicacies of the city of Porto, food for all people and today enjoyed country wide. There are variations on the theme, but the classic Francesinha involves thick slabs of rough-cut bread, between which lie slices of steak, ham, and at least two types of sausage. The whole lot is draped in slices of mild cheese, topped with a fried egg, smothered in sauce, and served with a giant plate of chips.
Being from Lisbon I know that my friends from Porto are convinced that they are the only ones that can master the best Francesinha and there the mere mention of the mighty sandwich can cause grown adults to engage on a heated discussion (everybody claims to know the "best" one in town) but what I hadn't realised was that by asking Lisbon's beloved Francesinha makers to share their secrets with me, I was asking them to commit the culinary equivalent of breaking the Magician's Code. While some Portuguese will tell you that it's impossible to find a good Francesinha outside of Porto, there are plenty of Lisboetas who beg to differ. Many speak in hushed, reverent tones about good spots in the center o the city famed for its faithful renderings of classic Portuguese snacks and also where one can find the best Francesinha. I managed to contact one of these small typical Lisbon restaurantes, but my cheery request to come along and witness their preparation of the Francesinha met with an apologetic refusal. We're sorry, came the response, "but the recipe of our Francesinha has some special key steps and sauce ingredients—a lot of people want to know the secret of the sauce, so I hope you understand our need for secrecy".
Bemused, I send out a couple more requests to other Lisbon Francesinha makers of note, only to be met with similar polite but firm rebuffs. With my attempts at pre-approval falling flat, I decided to ask my cousin a wine distributor in Lisbon that knows well all the traditional restaurants and he recomended one in the Alcântara region of the city, whose Francesinhas are the stuff of local legend. This part of town is currently mid-gentrification: beards, skinny jeans, and gin cocktails are found in abundance along the riverfront, while the backstreets are still lined with old-school tile-walled restaurants such as this one. I pick my way over a building site to get here, dodging the diggers, and pot-holes, and I'm disappointed to see the red fechado (closed) sign hanging in the door as I get close. But all is not lost. I see a man leaning against the open door in a proprietary fashion, and explain my dilemma. I've come here to ingest a mid-afternoon carb and protein bomb, damn it, please don't make me leave without one, I think. Not to worry, the man tells me, the cafe the cafe next door is under the same ownership, serves the same Francesinhas, and—crucially—is open. He shows me in. It's empty, so I pick a prime spot next to a cigarette machine and begin drilling the moustached figure behind the bar about the best Francesinha. I asked for a imperial ( draft Sagres beer) and when it arrives I start quizzing the owner about the francesinha and it's sauce. What main Ingredients do you use, do you add Piri-Piri? It's got meat stock in it, right? etc.etc.The owner shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "The chef doesn't tell me." I look to the chap behind the bar. "I don't know either and if I did, I couldn't tell you," he says. "The secret to a good Francesinha is the sauce. We couldn't give the secrets away." With that I took the owners point of view and sat down to enjoy the Fancesinha.
The place is trivial, no refinements here because what really matters is the food.The owner explains to me that the restaurant opened just six months ago and now he expects the word to spread and, shortly, “get some queues at the door.” Queues dont exist yet, but people come and end up confessing that they’ve heard about the place from friends. Regarding the star of the menu, I’m not the ultimate authority to assess, but I know what a good francesinha tastes like … and this is a good francesinha !! The quality of the meat, the spicy sauce, the cheese, the formula is complete and delivers a good and fair taste.Very tasteful! It came with French fries. Great combination! I would definitely go back there to have a “Francesinha”. Now I will give you the recipe that I managed to place together, remebering my stint working in a snack bar during my youth in Paços de Brandao, Santa Maria da Feira.
- 6 slices of bread loaf
- 8 slices of cheese
- 2 thin beef steaks
- 2 fresh sausages
- 4 slices of ham
- 2 "Linguiça"sausages
- 1 Egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 thin slices of chorizo to garnish
Cut the fresh sausages and "Linguiça" sausages into 4 strips in longwise manner. Season the steaks and sausages with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks, sausages and "Linguiça"sausages. Lightly toast the slices of bread. (On two plates) place a slice of bread, cover with two slices of thin ham, add the steak and cover with another slice of bread. Then add the sausage and "Linguiça"sausage, cover with a slice of cheese, and top with another slice of bread.Cover each Francesinha with 3 slices of cheese, place a slice of finely chopped chorizo in the center of each and take to the oven at 200 º until the cheese melts, Remove from the oven place the fried egg on top and cover with the sauce.Serve with French fries.
Ingredients For the sauce:
- 2 medium beers of 0.33 cl
- 1 small onion
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 table spoons of extra virgen olive oil
- 0.5 dl of brandy
- 0,5 dl of Port Wine
- 2 slice of ham
- 2 teapoons of maizena
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 cube of beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- Piri piri to taste
Preparation of the sauce:
In a medium size pot place the extra virgin olive oil, the onion choped finely, the bay leaf and the ham cut to pieces and let it brown, next add the the cut tomatoes and beer to the broth, the piri piri and some salt also the tomato paste and bring up the stove temperature to high. Next the Port Wine and Brandy are added. Remove the bay leaf and use the blender to mix all the ingredients in the sauce, so as to get it more creamy and uniform. If its needed, add the two teaspoons of maizena mixed with the milk to thicken the sauce. Let it boil and it's done.
Do try it, its not difficult and I'm sure you will Enjoy the Francesinha!