Have I told you how much I enjoyed being in Portugal lately?
Well, we all fell madly in love with Portugal. In fact, I loved it much more than I expected to and that surprised me. I have spent a lot of time in Spain and I think I assumed that Portugal would just kind of be like Spain-light but after spending a couple of weeks there, I know that this couldn't be further from the truth. Not only do they speak a completely different language, their music is different, their culture is very unique and their food is not Spanish at all.
Take the bifana, for instance. Before arriving in Lisbon, I had never heard of this pork sandwich that you can find just about anywhere. The best bifana to be had is at O Trevo in Lisbon ( I wrote about it here) and Portuguese McDonald's even have a McBifana (it's terrible) on their menu. Swear to God.
The word "bifana" conjures up images of a beef sandwich, right? Bifana sounds like beef but I am, in fact, talking about a pork sandwich. The beef sandwich there, equally delicious, is called a "prego". See? The Portuguese march to the beat of their own drummer.
|O Trevo happened to be right around the corner from our apartment in Lisbon|
After we came home, I started to try to replicate this wonderment of a sandwich. First off, you must get soft, Portuguese buns with a floury, crust - I prefer sourdough buns for this- but if are not lucky enough to live near a Portugese bakery, a crusty Italian bun will do. As long as the bread inside is soft (to soak up the juices) and the crust on the outside is thin and crispy (to hold the whole thing together) but you must use plain, old school yellow mustard. This is not the time to get fancy, people.
I couldn't get it quite right so I have put off sharing any recipes. Some of them called for the addition of vinegar, which we found overbearing and others don't add the pimento paste, which left the finished pork flavour lacking. have finally hit bifana gold.
I am sure that my recipe will not be the super authentic recipe that many Portuguese families use but it is the recipe that the three of us agree brings us back to Lisbon with every bite.
vihno verde is a very crisp, young, effervescent Portuguese white wine and if you can't find it, use the lightest tasting wine you can find - nothing oaked or too sweet
Ingredients:2 pork tenderloins (approx 780g/1.7 lbs)
4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup + 2 tbls sweet red pepper or pimento paste
2 cups vihno verde
2 bay leaves
about 1/2 tsp of piri piri sauce or any other hot sauce
2 tsp paprika
soft, crusty Portuguese buns
Pound each chunk between two layers of plastic wrap until very thin, set aside until all of the pork is pounded into thin cutlets. Put the cutlets into a large ziplock bag.
Mix the garlic, 1/4 cup red pepper paste, 1 1/2 cups vihno verde, bay leaves and hot sauce and pour over the pork cutlets. Let this marinate overnight (or at least all day) in the fridge.
When it's time to make the sandwiches, remove the pork from the fridge and let it sit while you prepare the onions.
Half the onions and then slice into 1/4" slices.
Coat the bottom of a big frying pan with some olive oil and saute the onions until soft, sprinkling them with a pinch of kosher salt.
Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
Start to fry the pork cutlets. Remove the pork from the marinade and dry it off with paper towels. In the same pan that you fried the onions, add a bit more olive oil and start frying the cutlets without crowding the pan, for a couple of minutes per side. Remove the cutlets to a big plate and continue until you have cooked all of the pork.
Return all of the pork and the onions to the pan. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of vihno verde and the 2 tbls of red pepper paste and 2 tsp of paprika and pour that over the pork and onions. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has absorbed and thickened up, turning the pork a couple of times, to make sure every piece is coated in the sauce.
Cut your buns in half and coat one side in yellow mustard. Heap some pork slices and onion on each one, top with the other half of the bun and eat.