A tasty little French girl
Smooth. Hot. A little Spicy.
These words describe this little French girl we met while we indulged on all things "Portuguese" during our month in Portugal. Her name is Francisinha. Of course, one might gasp at the thought of a married couple posting something like this about a juvenile co-ed. That is until one finds out this little French girl is a popular little culinary dish prepared and consumed in the Northern port city of Porto, Portugal. Porto is famous for this dish: a concoction of textures and tastes that strikes your palate with a kick and then leaves you feeling curious. With its smooth and melted cheese blanketing the main substance of warm meats encased in a type of breading, it conjures up feelings of a dish that harkens back to the "Kentucky Hot Brown." The Francisinha is a word that literally means "French Girl" in Portuguese. It is really an adaptation of the French Toast sandwich. The Francisinha can be found all over Porto and you may even find imitators in the Portuguese capital city of Lisboa. Specifically, the dish joins two slices of bread around a combination of steak, fresh sausage, and ham, capping it with melted cheese and drenching it with a tomato-beer sauce. The Francisinha was one of dozens of typical Portuguese dishes we consumed during our visit to this beautiful Western European country.
There is no doubt about it, our time in Portugal (one month to be exact) allowed us to taste and savor many dishes. This is our first food blog post and we hope to capture the essence of typical Portuguese fare. From fresh breads, to the local fish and seafood, to the abundance of olives, to the staggering libations, and to the sweet essence of street corner gelados; our time was filled with a diverse tour of traditional meals, snacks, treats, and beverages.
It did not take long for us to take in the seafood which is as prevalent as the sand and sea itself which surrounds most of Portugal's borders. Fresh fish such as the Blue Fish, Cod, Perch, Cuttlefish, and Mackerel are abundant. We especially enjoyed the salt encrusted fresh sardines Portugal is known for.
It is very typical for olives to be served alongside fresh cheeses and fresh bread before being served lunch and dinner in Portugal. And, yes... we did enjoy the olives and bread. They were prevalent and common. Just as prevalent is the accoutrement of "batata fritas" which comes alongside of most meals. Batata fritas are another name for French fries. They are everywhere. Potato is a popular item and it is most frequently served up as batata fritas. Our children primarily partook of these thinly sliced taters. Our children also took to one of the snacks from this region called Lupines. These small, yet mighty "boiled peanut"-like snacks are fun to eat, tasty, and just the right starter for any meal.
For a tasty and sweet chaser we consumed a lot of gelado. Just about every day we chased the salty meals with a sweet and creamy gelado from one of the many geladarias which can be found aplenty in just about every major city in Portugal. The gelados were delicious and we have yet to find a geladaria we have not liked. However, it was a Lisbon dessert that stands out as one that is very typical Portuguese and tasty all at the same time. The "Pastel de Nada" is a smooth and eggy pastry that whispers one's tastebuds to sleep with its silky texture and the "just-the-right-amount" of sweetness. The Pastel de Nada is hundreds of years old and has its origin in the monks of Belém (adjacent to Lisboa) which would take the egg whites out of their eggs to use for starch on their clothes. The leftover egg yolks would be taken out of the Belém monastery to the local bakeries for the bakers to use. The local bakers used the egg yolks to create this wonderful treat. We are happy they did.
Speaking of egg yolk... we were overcome most by the Ovos Moles and its subtle sweetness encased by a wafer of sorts that will bring back recollections of church communion. The interior of this small bite-sized treat is as yellow as the mid-day sun and the texture is that of a pudding except more dense. This one might be our favorite little gem of a treat from Portugal. The appearance. The taste. The small size which makes for it to be a very "pop-able" treat is all just very spot on.
One cannot consume the tasty amounts of food without a tasty Port wine to accompany it. Of course, we had our share of bottled water and Cola Zero. We also consumed the extremely affordable Portuguese beer such as Sagres or even the Portuguese version of a Cider similar to Woodchuck. The Portuguese cider is a sweet and summery beverage best enjoyed cold and pool-side. It is called Somersby. The belle of the ball of beverages however is the Port wine from the Northern Douro Valley region near Porto. The grapes of the Douro River Valley are not to be denied and one can find wine tastings galore in Portugal's oldest city of Porto. Just across the Douro river from the main area of Porto known as Ribeira sits the wine caves of Villa Nova de Gaia. Here, one can sip on the delectable port wines this region is known for across the globe. Enjoy a stroll along the Douro river, take a tour of one of the many wine caves, and just soak in all that Porto has to offer. It is worth it.