Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipe: João Grande (Chourico and Chip Sandwiches)

All cultures have fast food. Here in the USA we have more than our share. The selections are endless and the icons of the industry are omnipresent. Names like the "Big Mac" and "The Whopper" are synonymous with fast food around the world let alone just here in the states. That got me to thinking what our local Portuguese equivalents might be.

We have a decent variety of Portuguese fast foods, Principally among them are Portuguese-style steak sandwiches and chourico sandwiches. Having covered Portuguese steak sandwiches in previous posts I figured it was time to focus my attention on another local favorite: The chourico sandwich.

Chourico sandwiches come in many incarnations. There are ground chourico sandwiches, chourico and pepper sandwiches, chourico and sauce sandwiches, chourico and egg sandwiches, chourico hot dogs, chourico burgers, chourico EVERYTHING! Chourico is a ubiquitous part of our local food culture. Chourico is food religion in Southern New England. Why? Because EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH CHOURICO!

What I write three times is law:


One of my favorite types of chourico sandwiches comes from a great little hole-in-the-wall bar called "Billy's Cafe" in Fall River, Massachusetts. Billy's is one of those funky little places that doesn't change with the times, instead it just drags its time along with it. It is unpretentious and unrepentant. I ordered a glass of red wine there one night and I was asked if I wanted a small or a large! I can get behind that! Billy's is food and drinks their way, and their way is good.

They do a "chourico and chips" sandwich there that's great. Just good bread stuffed with fried chourico and french fries. It's just simple Portuguese fast food goodness. A couple of shots of Tabasco sauce on that and a LARGE wine or a cold beer and I'm in heaven. Check out Billy's if you're ever in the Riv. It's not for everyone, but it is certainly for ME!

I've made a few changes in my version of the chourico and chip sandwich. I butter and grill the bread a bit and I add some pimenta salgada and hot pepper rings to add a little more texture and a wider range of flavors. In keeping with the fast food motif, I've also named my version of the chourico and chip sandwich the "João Grande" (The Big John). I do that in honor of my Azorean great-grandfather: João de Lima da Ponte. As far as my Azorean Portuguese ancestors go, he was first to set foot on these shores and that at least merits naming a great Portuguese sandwich after him! It was also his daughter that introduced me to many Portuguese foods!

The "Big Mac" and "The Whopper" cannot compare to The João Grande!

João Grande (The Big John)

1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 package of chourico (cut into 1/4" disks)
Frozen french fries (enough to fill the desired number of rolls and some extra for sides).
2-3 soft torpedo sandwich rolls (sliced like hot dog buns)
2 Tbs sweet butter
1 pimenta salgada (rinsed well and cut into slices)
Hot pepper rings
Tabasco or Piri-piri sauce (optional)

There aren't many recipes this easy. If there is one trick to preparing a João Grande perfectly, it's timing! Try to have everything ready at relatively the same time. Keep that in mind when you're preparing the components!

Ready your fries for cooking. If you fry them (better-tasting) have your frying rig ready and hot. If you're baking them (healthier), preheat your oven. Time your fries to be ready just after the chourico and rolls are done.

Place two large skillets over medium heat. In skillet number one, add your olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the chourico and cook, stirring occasionally.

While the chourico is cooking. Butter the inside surfaces of the rolls and place them one at a time (buttered side down) on the second skillet grill until they are well toasted. You may want to use a small plate to push them down a bit on the hot skillet surface.

Continue cooking the chourico stirring occasionally until the edges of the chourico begin to brown or even blacken a little. Remove from heat, immediately add the french fries, pimenta salgada and hot pepper rings (to taste) and toss together well.

Overfill the buttered and toasted rolls with the chourico, french fries and pepper mixture and serve plated with the extra french fries. Offer the Tabasco Sauce or the Piri-piri as condiments.

Couple these with giant mugs of extra-cold beer and make some friends!

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