During his first trip to Portugal, a friend of mine received an advice from a Portuguese girl he met on the plane from Brasilia to Lisbon: “If you go to Porto, you can’t miss trying a francesinha”. A funny comment is always a good way to attract somebody’s curiosity. And, in that case, it worked.
Francesinha is a traditional Portuguese recipe, but most specifically of the region of Porto and it is considered a richer variation of the french croque-monsieur. Porto, where the recipe was first created, offers the best francesinha of the country but it is easy to bump into it in restaurants and tascas in Lisbon or in other Portuguese cities.
Even if the description makes you think about a sandwich, francesinha is a proper dish. It consists of layers, with a slice of bread (preferably slightly toasted) alternating various stuffings: thin cow steak, ham, fresh or cured sausage, all topped with slices of cheese. Cook in the oven to melt the cheese and then cover with a generous portion of sauce made of tomato, beer, Port wine, white wine, brandy, and Piri-Piri. Francesinha is a challenge for sophisticated palates and its presentation is not the most refined but it definitely worths a try!
The secret of francesinha is to reach the perfect balance of all the flavors. Depending on the availability of ingredients, the taste could vary a great deal. Some restaurants serve the dish with bologna instead of ham or hamburger instead of cow steak. You better try all of them and then choose what is your favorite. Click here to watch how to prepare francesinha. Usually, the dish is served alone or with a side of chips and sunny-side up eggs.
What to drink with it? Beer, obviously. Enjoy your meal!