Despite the fact that they were named after an English lord---the Earl of Sandwich, who liked to eat his meal between bread to keep his hands clean while he played cards--- I always thought of sandwiches as migrating from America to Europe. But no, my continuing European education has taught me that the reverse is true. Sandwiches probably date from the first century BC, and made their way from the Middle East to Europe, and finally to the states.
Many classic American sandwiches are fabulous. Is there anything better than a hot Reuben? French sandwiches are very different, the bread in particular. With the exception of a Croque Monsieur, they are nearly always served on a crispy baguette or roll. They tend to go much lighter on the fillings and sauces. They are displayed so beautifully in the boulangeries that I’ve taken to snapping photos of them. When it’s picnic weather, I say why cook when you can grab a sackful of them, and off you go?
If you’re in the mood for a French lunch, serve up les sandwichs--these photos may inspire you. Start with a good baguette, split lengthwise. You could also use a croissant or focaccia. A classic is ham with gruyère. Butter is a more common spread than mayonnaise or mustard.
Jambon cru chèvre is a common choice too, which features thinly sliced ham that resembles prosciutto, with goat cheese. Crudités is a vegetable sandwich (usually lettuce and tomatoes) with hard boiled eggs; sometimes ham is added. Caprese sandwiches are a classic, with tomato, mozzarella, and pesto. I was intrigued by one sandwich (photo, left) which has a thin herbed omelette inside, gotta try that.
Now to be really French, wrap your sandwiches in parchment paper, put them in a pretty basket, and break out the wine. Instant French pique nique!
RECIPE: My Favorite American Sandwich
You’ve got lots of ideas for le sandwich now, but here is my favorite American one. There used to be a restaurant in Charleston that served it. It’s a grilled chicken salad sandwich, not a logical sort of sandwich but it’s mighty fine.
Make a simple pulled or chopped chicken salad with cooked chicken, celery, mayo, maybe a little garlic powder. You’ll need two thin slices of good, whole grain bread. Put a good quantity of chicken salad on the bread and add a slice of deli-sliced swiss or gruyère cheese (or use your Cheese Plane for thin slices). Melt some butter in a cast-iron skillet (sorry, nothing else will do for a grilled sandwich) and brown it nicely on both sides.
In the COMMENTS: We're still talking gazpacho: Of course Rachel of the 'and then make soup' blog was interested in it, and she makes another cold tomato soup, Porro Antequera. Heather serves it like shooters, in shotglasses. Beth, merci, glad it turned out great! Debbie at A French Opportunity is hanging out in her new swing and hammock (you'll like her upside-down kitchen story). Nan at Silver Magpies has a waning veggie garden,as does Cynthia at The Daily Basics--same here, y'all. Reader Jacki willl visit the château, bon voyage and à bientôt in Burgundy! Look forward to meeting you.
Favorite Reads: We're always happy to learn about a new book, and reader Sue Wallace sent two that she rediscovered when she was dusting book shelves. Both are by Ina Caro. The first, Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train is about "day trips from her Paris apartment encompassing modern access (and nearby restaurants) and the history of each site, some of which I'd never heard of," says Sue.
The second one, The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France, "is a fascinating premise....travelling through France and visiting only locales that were constructed at the same time. It didn't matter if a site from the 15th century was next door to Picasso's stash, she would only stay within the 15th century to get a real feel for that time. I loved it. Hope you do, too." Merci Sue, I'm sure we will!