Tuesday, August 9, 2011

RECIPE - Francesinha Sandwich

This recipe for Portugal's extravagant francesinha sandwich, which has crossed the South Atlantic in recent years and can now be found in thousands of Brazilian bars, lunch counters and restaurants, is courtesy of Brazilian food-writer Ailin Aleixo's food blog Gastrolândia.

The francesinha, with a delicate and feminine name, is decidedly a masculine sandwich. It's a dieter's nightmare, and and glutton's pipedream all in one. As mentioned in yesterday's post about how the sandwich came to be invented and how it arrived on Brazilian shores, one of these sandwiches represents well over a thousand calories - half of the daily total recommended intake for men and more than half of women's recommended intake.

Most people eat the sandwich in a commercial establishment. It's not something to throw together at home and preparing a home version involves making a relatively complex gravy as well as constructing the sandwich itself. But for those brave (foolhardy?) readers of the blog who want to try one out without having to travel to Brazil or Portugal, here's how it is done:
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RECIPE - Francesinha Sandwich

For the gravy:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
6 oz (150 grams) flank steak (fraldinha) cut into medium-sized cubes
1 bay leaf
piri-piri hot sauce to taste (Tabasco sauce can be substituted)
2 Tbsp corn starch
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 oz (60 ml) Port wine (optional)
2 cups (500 ml) Pilsner-style beer
salt to taste


For the sandwich:
1 slice good-quality smoked ham
1 small sausage of your choice (chorizo, linguiça, andouille, wurst, etc.) , sliced lengthwise and fried until nicely browned
1 slice Italian mortadella
3 slices mozzarella cheese
1 small boneless steak, grilled or fried
2 thick slices rustic peasant bread at least 1 in (3 cm) thick
1 fried egg (sunny-side-up is traditional)
gravy to taste
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Prepare the gravy: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, the garlic, the cubes of meat and the bay leaf and fry them, stirring frequently, until the onion and the meat have nicely browned. Add the Port wine, if using, and the tomato paste and mix them in thoroughly. Pour in the beer and hot sauce, and correct for salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for at least one hour or until reduced by about half. Dissolve the corn starch in about 4 Tbsp cold water, then stir it in. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until the corn starch is transparent and has thickened the gravy. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve, pressing down on the solid ingredients. Reserve, keeping warm.

Prepare the sandwich: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Place one slice of the bread in an ovenproof dish or casserole. Top the bread with one slice of the mozzarella, then the ham, mortadella and grilled steak. Add one more slice of cheeze and the second slice of bread. Top with the final slice of cheese. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the meats are hot and the cheeze has melted and browned. Meanwhile, fry the egg. Remove the sandwich from the oven and place it on a deep plate, using a spatula and taking care that the sandwich remains whole. Pour the warm gravy over all, making sure there is plenty at the bottom of the plate. Top with the fried egg and serve immediately, accompanied with french fries if desired.

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