The Francesinha is one of Porto, Portugal's most iconic dishes. Born in the 1950's, it was the invention of Daniel Da Silva. In 1952 he began working at Regaleira, a cafe in Porto's city centre. Getting inspiration from the french sandwich, Croque Monsieur, he filled it full of Portuguese smoked meats and drowned it all in a fiery spicy, tomato beer sauce. The name translates literally to , little french girl, as he probably thought the French girls were "hot". The restaurant still serves the original version and to this day, the sauce is said to be, a lock and key, guarded secret.
Over the years, the sandwiches' popularity spread like a wildfire. Every restaurant in Porto, and across Portugal, has their own version of the sauce and claims to having the best.
I have eaten a lot of them. Some memorable, some not so much. Searching the internet you will see so many versions of the Francesinha.
The original one still served at Regaleira is served on a round roll, called a bijou. It is then filled with fresh sausages, one of which is called linguiça, and a slice of roast pork leg. Topped with cheese and slathered in sauce.
They also serve a different version, more common and popular in other restaurants, on sliced crustless sandwich bread. This is most likely the sandwich you have seen the most and how I make mine.
The cheese used is, Edam, and it is sometimes topped with a fried egg, which in most restaurants is not standard, but an extra option. They entire thing comes accompanied by french fries and I like to chase mine with an ice cold fino, aka draught beer. My husband laughs at me because he can never finish an entire one by himself. I can! :)
This is an absolute gut busting, beast of a sandwich. It is definitely a cheat meal. I use beef sirloin steak in mine, as many restaurants do. It has more flavour than the pork, unless you have a roasted pork pernil lying around, then by all means, slice it thin and lay it on.
Many restaurants, use very seasoned sausages or thick cold cuts. Personally I feel they can overpower the steak and sauce.
I honestly do not think there is any right or wrong way to how you fill this bad boy, or naughty girl, in this case.
Filling ideas: Thinly cut grilled sirloin steak, roasted pork leg, sausage, linguiça, chorizo, mortadella, prosciutto, very good quality ham cut on the thicker side, bockwurst, to name a few. Obviously, I can not stress enough the quality of the ingredients. Use the best you can.
In the photos, I couldn't find thick cut bread, thanks quarantine, so I used three thinner slices instead. It just gave the sandwich a bit more stability to cut nicely. It can get messy.
My sauce is not a secret and basically just trial and error really. Since no one knows what's in the original, we can only get close. Seriously speaking, I have had much better sauces than the original. Sorry, including mine. So feel free to play with it too, and remember, it should be "beery" and "tomatoey" and not very thick. I use Cholula brand Original hot sauce. It is just a personal preference. Feel free to spice this up any way you wish. You can even blitz a red chilli pepper or two directly with the sauce.
After blending, I always pass it through a fine mesh sieve twice. That gives me the beautiful silky texture I am after.
I hope you will try my recipe. Have fun building your sandwich and remember the secret is the sauce. It is seriously 90% of its success. Don't stress too much, sometimes the most secret of sauces are not very complicated at all. Don't forget to accompany the sandwiches with mounds of hand cut, freshly cooked french fries. They love the sauce too. I have added photos of 2 different times I made these, so you can see the insides are different. This last time I used a little circular ring mould to cut out the centre of the cheese slices. We ate a Francesinha in Porto at a restaurant who did this to expose the pretty runny egg yolk. I thought it was pretty clever.
Francesinha à moda do Porto
Makes 2 sandwiches and plenty of sauce (which you can freeze)
For the sauce:
350 ml. Tomato passata/ called tomato puree in the U.S.A
660 ml. Beer, I used 2 Coronas
100 ml. of whole/full fat milk to finish
50 ml. Brandy or Port wine, *optional ( I didn't have any today, and it came out delicious without it)
2 Chicken stock cubes, I used Knorr brand
1 Clove of garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 Slice of prosciutto
1 Large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. Worchestire sauce
2 tbsp. Tomato ketchup
1 tsp. Yellow mustard, such as French's
1 tbsp. Lard
1/2 tsp. Corn starch/powder dissolved in 1 tbsp. of the
100 ml. of milk above.
Hot sauce of choice, to taste
I do not add any black pepper as traditionally the sauce has no specks of anything in it. White pepper can be used instead, to taste.
**Optional, but is fantastic. You can add the sirloin steak trimmings saved from the steak used in the sandwich. They will flavour the sauce and you can remove before blending and discard.
Careful adding salt as stock cubes and worchestire sauce is salty already. I added no salt to the end of my sauce, at all!
You can add fresh red chillies to the sauce, but because their heat is hard to control this way, I prefer to add hot sauce at the end, or pass it around the table, and let everyone personalise the sauce's heat to taste.
1. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, add lard, onion, garlic, bay leaf, prosciutto and beef trimmings. Saute for a few minutes, occasionally stirring, to sweat the onion. You don't want the onion to brown, just soften and turn translucent.
2. Add tomato, Worchestire sauce, ketchup, mustard, stock cubes and beer.
Let simmer gently for 15 minutes.
3. Remove and discard bay leaf, and beef trimmings. Discard
4. Using an immersion/ stick blender. Puree sauce until smooth.
5. Dissolve the corn starch/ powder using 1 tbsp. of the 100 ml. of cold milk.
Add to sauce along with remaining milk.
Gently bring to the boil and and reduce heat. Let simmer for 1 minute.
6. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Repeat.
7. Sauce is ready to use. Keep warm or cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the sandwiches:
2 Sirloin or ribeye steaks, 1 steak cut in half and pounded thinly will usually be enough for 2 sandwiches. Trimmed of fat and saved for sauce above.
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Vinegar
1 Bay leaf
1 whole garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 Fried eggs, over easy. The yolk runny is delicious later :)
4 Slices of thick cut sandwich bread, crusts removed
9 Slices of Edam cheese
3 Sausages, your choice, cut in half lengthwise
4 Slices of mortadella, chorizo, ham, linguiça
Butter, to taste
Vegetable or sunflower oil to fry eggs
50 ml. Extra virgin olive oil to shallow fry steak.
1. In a bowl, add steaks and marinate with salt, pepper, garlic powder, vinegar and bay leaf. Stir to combine, set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 220°C /430°F. This will allow the cheese to melt very quickly without drying out your egg yolks.
3. In a frying pan, fry eggs to your desired doneness. Remove to a plate with slotted spoon and reserve.
4. Wipe out frying pan and add olive oil. On high heat add any raw sausages and cook until well done. Remove to plate, set aside. Add steaks along with bay leaf and crushed clove of garlic. Cook to your desired doneness.
5. Meanwhile, toast the bread lightly in the toaster. Butter, set aside.
6. Add sliced meats to frying pan, pushing steaks aside if you need to, just need a warm through.
To assemble sandwiches:
Onto a baking sheet, build in this order.
Slice of bread, ham, mortadella, chorizo, sausages, linguiça or bockwurst.
1 Slice of cheese, Steak, remaining slice of bread, and egg.
Next drape remaining slices of cheese, lengthwise to cover part of the top and down the sides of the sandwich.
Place in centre of preheated oven for a few minutes or until cheese is melted. Do not leave too long or it will start to slide off.
Meanwhile heat sauce to very hot.
Using a spatula, carefully lift each sandwich onto individual deep serving bowls.
Ladle hot sauce all over sandwich.
Serve immediatly with hot sauce and a portion of fries.
Below is one I built with different meats and 3 slices of thinner bread. Notice the cheese also doesn't have the cutout. It was just as delicious.