Francesinha - Porto's famous "sandwich"

Without a doubt one of the best sandwiches you can make if you can call it that. It's a typical pub dish in Porto, usually accompanied with some fries to dip in the sauce and a nice beer. You can get them all over town and everyone has a favorite place. For us the reference has always been "Capa Negra II". Recently we have started making our own.

The sauce takes a few hours to make (most of the time unattended) but it is well worth it. It freezes well so it is a good idea to make large quantities. You'll find it is miles away from the quick beer-based versions. The key to the best francesinha is to use only exceptional ingredients.

Ingredients for the sauce:
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions
- 2 garlic cloves (optional)
- 4 pounds tomato, ripe
- 300g beef (any kind as long as it has just a little fat)
- 2 carrots
- tomato concentrate
- 2 pounds of shrimp, shells only (next time time you eat shrimp remember to save them!)
- english (Worchestershire) sauce
- Dijon mustard
- chilli sauce
- 1/3 cup Brandy
- 1/3 cup Port wine
- salt

Ingredients for the sandwich
- 1 loaf of sliced white bread sliced (2 or 3 slices per sandwich); you need to find a decent brand that actually tastes like bread, don't get the preservative filled disappointment that comes with anything that advertises on TV
- sirloin steak (100g per sandwich - 1 steak)
- fresh pork sausages (1/2 per sandwich)
- black pork linguiça (1/3 per sandwich)
- turkey salami with olives (1 slice per sandwich)
- "flamengo" cheese (if you can't find it, edam cheese will do the job - 4-5 slices per sandwich)

For the sauce
In a large tall pan, gently fry the chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions turn transparent. Add the beef (in small chunks) and cook until it looks evenly cooked on the outside. Add the carrots, chopped. Add the tomatoes (I usually use the processor to chop them first, but you can just chop them coarsely), 1 table spoon of tomato concentrate and 4 pounds of water. (When we run out of tomatoes, we use frozen tomato sauce which is what you see in the photos. Tomato sauce is just tomato cooked in onions and olive oil. We freeze it in plastic cups to make it easy to use.) Let it simmer for 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, prepare a shrimp stock. It's really easy, just fry the shrimp shells (heads included) in some olive oil, add 3-4 cups of water and bring to boil for 15 minutes. Use a hand blender to puree the stock and then filter. Add a cup of the shrimp stock to the sauce and boil for a few minutes. Season with the english sauce (1 table spoon), 1 table spoon Dijon mustard, the brandy and Port wine, chilli sauce, black pepper and salt to taste. Let it simmer another 15 minutes and use a hand blender to turn everything into a smooth thick sauce. Have a taste. With me it always needs more salt and chilli. Keep warm until you serve it extra hot over the sandwich.

For the sandwich
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (360F). Slightly toast the bread slices. Fry the steaks, sausages and black pork linguiça in olive oil. It is easier to fry the linguiça if it is previously sliced in half lenghtwise so it doesn't curl.

And now for the serving, from the base to the top (see animation): 1 slice of bread, 1 slice salami, half a sausage and 1/3 of a linguiça, the sirloin steak, the second slice of bread and finally the cheese covering the top and sides of the sandwich. In the animation, you'll see 3 slices of bread, but we've been trying to cut down on our carbs and I think it's better with less bread.

Put them in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese starts melting too much.

Serve in a deep plate and cover with hot sauce. Accompany with good beer. If you're in Porto that's either the dominant Super Bock or one of the new crafts beers like Sovina's wheat brew in the photo.