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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Croque Madame on Steroids

There is always something magical about a grilled cheese sandwich, hot melted cheese encased in two crispy slices of toast, what could be better? Add ham or bacon to the mix and shallows fry your bread in butter. So was born the croque Monsieur (bless the French); the croque monsieur is a baked or fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich. 


The Francesinha at Santa Francesina, Porto

The dish originated in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. With all things French cooking however a variant was born, add a fried egg to the mix and vola you have the croque Madame!


On a recent trip to Portugal I was introduced to something even more ethereal, there Portuguese take on the croque Mad koame but on such a whole other level, a meal (not a snack) by itself; the Francesinha!

According to Wikipedia, It is said that the Francesinha was invented in the 1960s. Daniel da Silva, a returned emigrant from France and Belgium, tried to adapt the croque-monsieur to Portuguese taste. Other versions date the Francesinha to the 19th century. It is a very popular dish in Porto and is associated with the city, although it can be sometimes found elsewhere in Portugal. A classic francesinha meal would include the sandwich, surrounded on a bed of chips doused in the famous sauce, and complemented with a fino, literally meaning thin or fine, which in this context refers to draught beer.

So in a vain attempt to recreate this magical sandwich in Singapore I set about making my Francesinha version 1.0.


The sandwich itself was great, while some recipes call for the bread to be not toasted I opted to shallow fry it in French butter (why? Because I can and there crispiness of the toasted bread would give the Francesinha another textural element). 

The sauce, the component that defines the Francesinha was decent but could do with as little tweaking; I'll need to add a little more piri-piri for a spicier kick and use a lighter white beer (I wanted to try using a dark beer for more flavor).


So here's the recipe in its entirety, thanks to I tweaked it slightly due to the lack of some ingredients and I covered the egg with the cheese and baking it in the oven: 
Ingredients: 1 francesinha
2 slices of white, but not to soft, slices with aprox. 2 cm/0.8 inches thickness
1 linguiça
1 fresh sausage
1 small veal steak
2 slices of mild ham
7 to 8 thin slices of cheese
1 egg
Sauce: serves 4 or 5
6,6 dl beer (2 cans)
4 dl semi skimmed milk
1 dl whisky
2 dl tomato passata
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 small veal steak
2 cubes of meat stock
2 tsps corn starch dissolved in a bit of milk
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Piri Piri (portuguese hot chili sauce)
*Place all the ingredients for the sauce (except the corn starch and the piri piri) inside a heavy bottomed pan and take to the heat. Cook for approx. 30 minutes in medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and remove the carrot, bay leaf and steak.
*Add the dissolved corn starch to the sauce a bit at a time, stir, let it come to a boil and if it´s still to runny add a bit more. Don´t make a very thick sauce, it should fall from the wooden spoon in a constant thread, ending up in thick drops.
*Remove from the heat and add the piri piri to taste, which in my case means lots of it.
*Grill the meats, I use a press grill because it´s easier to cook the sausage and linguiça. Cut the sausage and linguiça in half and then in 4 equal parts.
*On top of a slice of bread place first a slice of cheese, on top place a slice of ham, then the 4 pieces of linguiça, on top the steak, followed by the fresh sausage, another slice of ham and another slice of cheese, top with the other slice of bread and on top a slice of cheese. Place one slice of cheese in each side of the sandwich – You can hold the cheese with skewers and remove them once the cheese is melted, later – and place one more on top.
*Put the sandwich inside a preheated oven for a couple of minutes just so the cheese starts to melt but let it toast. If you used skewers now is time to remove them.
*Fry the egg in a bit of hot oil.
*Remove from the oven, put the fried egg on top of the sandwich and immediately pour the very hot sauce over it – you want the bottom of the sandwich immerse in sauce – and serve with the fries and a cold, cold beer.
*Keep a bowl with the sauce near so you can add more as you go

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