The Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich that originates from Porto. The literal translation for its name is ‘Little French Girl’, however, the only thing little about it, is the name. It’s a rather large sandwich filled with layers of beef steak, cured meat, fresh sausages, topped with cheese, covered with a beer sauce, and surrounded by French fries. It’s a meat and carb heavy meal that is believed to be a Portuguese adaptation of the French classic, the Croque-Monsieur. Multiple cafés, restaurants, and bars claim the title of having the best francesinha in Porto and it’s a hotly contested title.
Francesinha – A Little French Girl?
The original sandwich is currently credited to a man named Daniel da Silva sometime in the early fifties. Silva was a Portuguese emigrant to France, who returned and worked as a cook for the restaurant ‘A Regaleira’ in Porto. It was here he began to serve his homage to the Croque-Monsieur to the locals. It was a hit, and soon many of the cafés and bars in Porto would be recreating the dish and it soon spread across Portugal. That’s one theory anyway. Another is that during the French occupation of Porto in the early 19th century, the locals were introduced to the French habit of eating cheese and meat sandwiches, before making the idea their own and creating the Francesinha. Like many of Portugal’s famous dishes, who the creator is, and figuring out where to find the best version is a heated debate!
Are All Francesinha’s the Same?
Speaking of variations, there are multiple within Porto and outside of it. The most typical include ham, beef steak, cured sausages, and fresh sausages. You’ll find some include bacon, some include higher quality steak that can be served medium or rare, some even include roast pork (assada). If you’re looking for a really unique Francesinha you can even find seafood versions, with shrimp or tuna! The composition is usually similar though, a tall sandwich, layers of meat, topped with cheese, and covered in sauce. Oh, and don’t forget the fries to dip into that sauce!
How to Make a Francesinha at Home?
Despite all of the versions, we’ve tried to stick to a classic recipe, it doesn’t deviate too much from the original idea, in our humble opinion. Feel free to experiment and let us know how it goes! The original always includes a healthy serving of fries, however we prefer to serve ours with roasted potato wedges (it’s one less fried thing on the plate!)
For the Sauce:
- 1tsp olive oil
- 1tbsp lard
- 1 small onion – thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves – roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tin of diced tomatoes
- 400ml beef stock
- ½ cup ruby port wine
- 500ml blonde beer
- 1 piri-piri seedless
- 2tbsp Worcester sauce
- Black pepper
For the Francesinha
- 2 slices of soft bread
- 1 thin beef steak – tenderized
- 1 pork sausage
- 1 cured pork sausage – linguiça
- 2 slices of ham
- 5 slices of cheese
- 1 egg
- Place a medium saucepan over low to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the lard, olive oil, garlic, and bay leaf. Let it cook for a minute before adding the onion. Let it simmer for about 8 minutes until the onion turns translucent.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and the beef stock. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining sauce ingredients: port wine, beer, piri-piri and Worcestershire sauce, cook for another 10 minutes.
- With a hand mixer, blend everything until smooth. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes. The texture should be similar to a gravy, but slightly more liquid.
- If necessary, add some corn starch or other thickening to your taste. Make sure to dissolve it in cold water before adding to the mixture. Let it cook until it reaches your preferred texture.
- Season it with salt and black pepper, set it aside.
- Place a frying pan over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the sausages in half then butterfly-cut them.
- Fry the sausages in their own fat, then use the remaining fat to fry the steak. Finally, lightly fry the ham slices.
- Gently toast the bread slices. Start putting the Francesinha together: On a plate, place one bread slice, then a slice of cheese, ham, steak, the sausages, and the final bread slice.
- Fry the egg, place it on top of the sandwich, cover it with the cheese slices, leaving the egg-yolk visible.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then spoon it on top of the sandwich. The hot sauce will melt the cheese. Serve it either with a side of French fries, or surrounded by fries if your plate is big enough!
With this you should be able to have your own belly busting Porto experience in your own home. If you’re hungry for more, we have some other recipes for delicious Portuguese sandwiches like the Bifana and the Prego no Pão here. They are a little lighter than a Francesinha though!
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