Scroll down to the recipe, or join me in the story of the first time I met this bun.
If you asked my boyfriend what his last meal would be, this would be a top contender. Literally it means “bread with sausage”. The first time we tried this humble Portuguese street food we had just finished surfing together for the second time. Imagine waking up at 7am on a hot August day in Lisbon, eating a croissant with nata, maybe a cappuccino or fresh orange juice and then jumping into a van to drive for 45 minutes to the surf spot. It was a Sunday so traffic was minimal, but the heat was in full force. We had this little van, and picked up some young Dutch or German couples. Once we got to Sintra, a little coastal town, similar to Malibu in its vibes, we got suited up in our wetsuits. We had to carry the boards two by two because they were the big, awkward ones for first-time learners. We had a quick lesson on the shore and off into the freezing cold water we went. The waves were calm but perfect for beginners, so much so that our instructor, Nuno said he was jealous of us, because he wanted to be surfing too, instead of teaching us, in a polite way. Some of us stood up for 5 to 10 seconds which is pretty impressive. After the surf, we had to shower and walk back up the hill with the boards in heat that was 110 F or more. Nuno’s face was covered in white all the time because he knew how bad the ozone layer was blown out in Portugal. We headed back to the van and we were starved. After spending time in the ocean I always have a craving for salty food, so this lunch was the best solution for that.
Nuno, a Sintra local, took us to a place that he grew up going to as a kid. It was a tiny little stand and it didn’t even have a name, it just said what it sold “ha pao quente” or “there is hot bread.” There was just an oven and enough room for 2-3 people, the cashier/baker, and a well-fed kid who was helping out. To the right, you saw an older lady rolling the fresh bread grabbing for the thin slices of chouriço to wrap throughout the dough. Then, the cashier/baker would reach into the wood-fired oven and bring out these brown paper bag-wrapped loaves, like little dough babies, piping so hot you could barely hold them.
When we bit into it, we could see the steam escape. The first moment when that salty chouriço and the bread hit your tongue it was satisfaction in a bite. You kept eating because you were so hungry, but as the sore muscles and food coma came in, you couldn’t help yourself to sleep in the van, even as Nuno is pointing out all the places he grew up, the abandoned houses he partied with his friends, the hospital his son was born at. Your body wanted to rest so bad. To add to that the van had no AC. We were coming back to Lisbon at 3pm or so and the weather got up to 114 F. If you have ever baked pastries, you can understand what it means to be a cookie in a convection oven. The windows were open, hot air was circulating, and we were cooking, “convection-mode”. The one Canadian-French with us, Kiefer, was outright dying from the heat. He beat us all in the cold, but in the dry heat- it was another story. He was silent most of the ride, like all of us, tired, beat, and cooked.
This recipe takes a little time to prepare and would be best made in a wood-fired oven. But, since most of us don’t have that luxury, I baked it in a cast iron pot with a lid in a very hot oven to mimic a wood-fired oven. The bread steams a bit in the pot, which is similar to the steam that the wood gives off when it burns. Now, you have to buy the highest quality chorizo, and get it as thinly sliced as possible. We had another Pao com chouriço with thick slices in the city and it just wasn’t the same- you end up fighting with the meat because it’s chewy.
I know I’ll be making this for my boyfriend many times over because it’s so much better than a sandwich. Nothing falls out and the heat from the bread warms your hands so it feels so comforting to eat. It’s funny because the next stop on my journey would be Argentina, where they make “choripan,” a variation in sandwich form with some fixings. For the people out there who like meat and bread, like my boyfriend, this is for you.
Pao com Choriço
Makes 4 small buns
- Ready Pizza dough (my favorite is Trader Joe’s)
- 5 oz. dry chouriço, sliced very thin (I found it at Whole Foods next to the cheeses)*
*Most people know Mexican chorizo with a “z” and it’s similar. The Portuguese version is dried, cured and ready-to-eat like dried salami. The Mexican version is usually sold raw and needs to be cooked.
- Preheat the cast iron oven in the oven at 525 F, or the highest setting on your oven. To real preheat it, it takes a good 30 minutes. (If you don’t have a cast iron pot, place the buns on a baking tray into the oven.
- Divide pizza dough into 4 pieces. Flatten a small piece of dough like you are making a pizza. Add sliced chouriço, two to three pieces, roll a little, then add another line of chouriço. Roll up and pinch to secure. Let rest 20-30 minutes or until a little puffy.
- When a little puffy, make 3 diagonal slits in each roll, with a sharp knife. These are best baked in a wood fired oven, but with a cast iron pot with a lid you can recreate that wood oven.
- When the oven is sufficiently heated, open the lid to cast iron pot carefully, and place buns directly into the cast iron pot. Put lid back on and bake for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove lid and lower oven to 400F. Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped underneath.
- Let cool before biting into! Super hot.
|Taking in the Sintra coast|
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